SJSU student creates career opportunity

Benjamin Hernandez, SJSU student in Rockafellar Plaza
Benjamin Hernandez, SJSU student in Rockafellar Plaza

 Benjamin Hernandez, a junior advertising student at SJSU, recently won The Chicken of the Sea’s Apprentice Challenge on the television show, The Celebrity Apprentice. Benjamin created a viral marketing campaign where he played the role of “Tommy Tuna”, an energetic proponent of Chicken of the Sea’s tuna products. As a result of winning this contest, Benjamin was invited to attend the final episode of The Celebrity Apprentice and had the opportunity to interview celebrities like Joan Rivers, Donald Trump, and Clint Black on the red carpet.

We caught up with Ben and asked him a few questions about the contest and how he created opportunities to kick start his career. T he following is an exerpt of our conversation:

What were some of the motivating factors that drove you to enter the contest?

Let me gush: I love advertising! Finding ways to make communication commercial is fascinating. The work provides a canvas that accepts limitless creativity.“The Chicken of the Sea Apprentice Challenge ” was simply an opportunity to have some fun utilizing some of the tactics I’m learning here at SJSU.

The  contest required, making a viral video and developing a pitch for how it would be implemented in a campaign, which was a prime opening to be efficient too. I had to shoot a viral video for a course project and I needed a video piece to add to my portfolio. So with one project, I could complete three tasks: a school project, a portfolio piece, and enter this contest.

How did you go about putting your entry together (how did you showcase your skills)?

I approached the project as an advertiser. I knew this perspective would give me an advantage over the competition because I could think in marketing terms and understand the scope of the project.

Knowing I was doing a viral spot, I started putting together some criteria to guide the production. The video had to: be quick to keep someone engaged, include brand messages, promote the health benefits of Chicken of the Sea seafood products, and it  had to promote tuna cups and tuna pouches.

Since it was a viral video contest, I decided at the gate to go low-level production. I didn’t want the video to be too slick. Keeping the video homemade-looking was paramount. The content had to sing, not the production quality.

I had to include supporting documents along with the video. To express I had a thorough understanding of their product, I used a trick I picked up at the SJSU Career Center: I read the contest entry requirements multiple times and highlighted any adjectives or messages that were repeated. Just as one would use a job description to guide them in building a tailored resume, I allowed the requirements to guide my pitch, fortifying it with adjectives and messages Chicken of the Sea was seeking.

What do you hope to get out of this experience (career-related as well as personally)?

This experience is a gem for the resume. “The Celebrity Apprentice” was renewed for another season, which is fantastic as this project will still hold tremendous cache when I graduate.

Plus the videos are all over YouTube, so they’ll be kicking around for…like…eternity.

Simply being involved in a viral-marketing endeavor was a great experience. I now know how what it takes to create and implement one. Working with the public relations people from Nuffer, Smith, and Tucker (Chicken of the Sea’s representatives) gave me hands-on experience in the field I am entering. I can’t express how excited this makes me: I got to do some real work and loved every moment of it! Even the back-end stuff was great. It lets me know I am entering the right industry.

Personally, this win was a boon for my confidence: I know my ideas are golden now. It reinforces my whole perspective on school and work. Rather than just chipping away at a degree, I know I’m producing results with my activities, which encourages me to do more.

What are your career goals?

My career goal is to be relevant in the marketing communications industry (advertising, public relations, marketing…the whole shebang). This entails a few things:

  • Winning a Clio (the Oscar of advertising)
  • Airing a commercial in the Super Bowl
  • Working with great American brands (Coke, Microsoft, Verizon, etc.)
  • Developing an ad campaign for a President

These are lofty aims, but I like to think like Kanye says “Reach for the stars so when you fall you land on a cloud.”

What advice would you give to your fellow SJSU students?

Gamble. Shake the dice and roll ‘em. Taking chances is the only way to get ahead. The bigger the risk, the larger the reward is. The only way to win is to play.

I approach every project the same attitude: what’s the worst that could happen? Failure? It’s not that bad. But accomplishment, it’s everything.

Want to follow Ben’s journey? Check him out on twitter @manolobenjamin

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