Will Milowsky ’19 and Yuxin Xiong ’19 were the first-ever Newhouse students to earn the honor
A concept that now-advertising alumni Will Milowsky ’19 and Yuxin Xiong ’19 worried might be “too simple” ended up winning them a Gold Clio Award, the first Newhouse student team to do so in the school’s history. Their campaign, “Drive Awake,” won the Student Innovation Medium and Product Innovation Category in 2019, while they were still students.
The Clio Awards competition is one of the most prestigious and well-known advertising competitions in the world.
The concept for “Drive Awake” was developed in a course taught by advertising professor of practice Mel White, after she presented students with a project brief that asked students to connect an audience with a global brand in a way that wasn’t possible three years ago.
This kind of brief “challenges students to create the kind of sophisticated advertising that the ad agencies are looking for in student portfolios,” White says.
For the project, Milowsky, a copywriter, teamed up with art director Xiong and started brainstorming ideas. Milowksy says that his four-hour commute between home and college inspired him to think about driving safety, so he and Xiong decided to create a campaign for Toyota to address falling asleep at the wheel.
Additional inspiration came from White’s class, where students had to present their projects in 10 minutes,capped off by a loud alarm. Milowsky noted how students would jump at the alarm.If the sound of an alarm could startle students in a classroom, then maybe it could also startle them awake while driving.
“I realized we could connect the [alarm] with falling asleep at the wheel,” Milowsky says.
Milowsky thought the idea was too simple at first, but after a while, he says, he and Xiong realized it was that simplicity that made it work. “It took a natural human reaction and hacked it to make it something useful to us,” he says.
The team envisioned an app that could read data from conductive dry electrode fabric, a new technology that reads a driver’s heart rate through strips attached to the steering wheel. The information received through the strips is processed through an electrocardiogram microchip to determine the driver’s level of wakefulness or sleepiness.
If the driver appears to be falling asleep, a phone alarm sounds and wakes them up. The application also gives the driver the option to reroute to the nearest coffee shop.
Xiong and Milowsky both now work for Merkley+Partners in New York—Xiong as a junior art director and Milowksy as a junior copywriter.
The team learned of their win during a meeting at work.
“I didn’t even realize it was a big deal until our agency had us all celebrate,” Milowsky says.
“They prepared champagne for us and suddenly my colleagues started to play ‘We are the Champions,’” says Xiong.
Professor White says that it’s creating advertising like this, and winning awards like this, that put Newhouse student portfolios at par with other top advertising schools.
“They worked hard on their advertising solution that solved a crucial problem,” she says.
Adrianne Morales is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.