Early on in my career at Google I was approached by a former professor of mine, Jamie Murphy, who was eager to give his students hands-on exposure to online marketing. Apart from delivering a great learning experience, Jamie wanted to make sure that his students would leave university with skills they could take directly into the workforce.

Together, Jamie and I recruited a panel of professors from all over the globe and came up with the Google Online Marketing Challenge. Student teams had to identify a local business with a website, but no experience of online marketing, and then were given free Google AdWords vouchers worth the equivalent of US$200. The student teams worked with the local business to set up an AdWords account and structure an online marketing campaign which would increase web traffic and sales for the local business. The teams had three weeks to run the campaign and had to submit their campaign report to a panel of international academic judges.

Today we're announcing the winners: an innovative team from the University of Western Australia who worked with an indoor rock-climbing school that scaled the heights and scooped the global prize. The winners will be whisked off to Mountain View, California for a tour of the Googleplex and meet with the creators of AdWords and other executives. To help them in their ongoing studies, each team member will also receive an Apple MacBook Pro.

L to R: Dr. Fang Liu, Glen Linthorne (from the partner business),
Victor Tsen (hanging), Amy Smith, Aaron Balm, and Lauren Bobridge. Absent: Anna Usikov.

There were also three regional winners, including students from Pennsylvania State University, who won in the fierce Americas field, while a team from the Universit├Ąt Bern in Switzerland beat some impressive competition to win for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Asia Pacific winners came from the Australian Graduate School of Management with a skillful campaign for a small specialty cake business (actually based in California).

These four teams were clearly deserving winners, but the enthusiasm all the students and professors showed for the challenge was inspiring. We initially expected slightly more than 1,000 students to take part, and were thrilled when c. 8,500 students from 47+ countries put their marketing skills to the test.

The success of the challenge and the positive feedback we've had from both professors and students was more than we had hoped for. As Dr. Fang Liu, who taught the winning team, notes:

“The Online Marketing Challenge offers a great opportunity for students to develop their skills and experience in online marketing. Local businesses also benefit as the AdWords campaigns have helped promote their business to a wider community. I feel absolutely thrilled that one of my student teams is the global winner."
We're delighted to have worked with professors to find a fun and innovative way to introduce online marketing into the university curriculum. And we're happy to say the Challenge will carry on next year, and we hope it will go from strength to strength. Here are more details on the Challenge and our winners.