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Everyone’s asking “Paper or Plastic?”

Don Dickinson’s advertising campaigns class at Portland State University began posting signs in buildings around campus last week with the phrase “Paper or Plastic?” printed on them. The signs promote an event that will be held on the second floor of Smith Memorial Center on March 6, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The event is a promotional and informative game, sponsored by CitiBank and developed by Dickinson’s class, which is designed to inform PSU students about issues relating to achieving and maintaining good credit.

The Marketing 443 class has planned a fun and informative game in which students find the answers to eight questions about credit by visiting different booths.

After playing the game and answering the questions, students will receive a free root beer float and may enter to win prizes, including the grand prize, a DVD player. Organizers have also arranged for theater department volunteers guerilla theater skits in Smith Memorial Center to promote the event.

In early January, PSU Vice President of Finance and Administration George Pernsteiner banned all credit card vendors from reserving space on campus to solicit credit card applications through the fall of 2002. Dickinson received a forwarded e-mail in which someone expressed concern that “Paper or Plastic?” was “a veiled attempt to dupe students into becoming slaves of credit monsters.”

However, the event is intended to advocate credit education so that students can make informed decisions about how to use the credit available to them, not to sign them up for a credit card. No one from CitiBank will be on campus recruiting students. “I wouldn’t have been involved with this if it were a credit card marketing campaign,” Dickinson said.

The course is structured to teach business students the process of developing, organizing and implementing an advertising campaign by doing so for an outside sponsor. Dickinson is able to connect with local and national companies through an organization based in Berkeley, Calif. called Edventure Partners. Edventure’s slogan is, “developing innovative partnerships between the business community and education systems that enhance the growth, performance, and value of both.”

After three years of promotions for Saturn Automobile Dickinson requested that Edventure Partners provide them with a new company to work with. This is the first term Dickinson’s class has worked with CitiBank. “Distance is a bit of a problem, but they (CitiBank) have been good to work with, creatively,” Dickinson said.

CitiBank sponsors the event by funding the necessary supplies, while Dickinson’s class develops the ideas, creates advertisements, organizes a promotional event and does any other necessary leg work. “There’s a ton of work that goes into organizing a promotional event,” Dickinson said. “Each of my students has more than one hat to wear, and their own parts to play during the event on.”

In addition to organizing the event, Dickinson’s class of 19 also developed the advertising seen around campus with the phrase “Paper or Plastic?” Monica Martell, a business student in the Marketing 443 class, was instrumental in designing the graphics for the advertisements. “There’s a lot of talent in the business school,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson’s class was one of five in the country to be contracted by CitiBank through their new program called the Credit Education Program. Each school was given the same theme of educating students on issues surrounding the proper use of credit.

“There’s always an interest in how other schools have interpreted the idea, but we understand that it’s important to keep what we’ve done closely held, so classes elsewhere can come up with original ideas, without being limited to what other schools have not already done. If two schools come up with a similar idea, without communicating, then it is OK. No one wants to steal any one else’s ideas,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson’s class chose the slogan, “Paper or Plastic?” because it is a well-known phrase that they are attempting to add a new meaning to. “We are trying to educate students about credit and give a new meaning to that term,” Dickinson said. “So that every time they hear this question, they’ll think of credit instead of its original meaning.”

Although the upcoming promotional event has received mixed responses from some people at PSU, students in the class are positive about their experience and the knowledge gained. “This has been a good learning experience because it has a really hands on approach,” said Michelle Atterlee, a business student in the Marketing 443 class. “This is also something we can put on our resumes, which is nice.”

The Portland State athletic department has already contacted Dickinson to organize a promotional event during spring term. Watch to see how the next class interprets their assignment near the end of spring term.