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S. Tuzovic

Pacific Lutheran University (UNITED STATES)
In 2008, a collaborative partnership between Google and academics developed the Google Online Marketing Challenge which led to “perhaps the world’s largest in-class competition for higher education students” (Murphy et al. 2009, 1). More than 8,000 students along with around 340 instructors and 1,620 businesses from 47 countries across six continents participated in the inaugural Challenge (Murphy et al. 2009; Neale et al. 2009). Unlike traditional class projects and business simulations, the Google Challenge merges marketing education with experiential and technology-enhanced learning in a real-world environment including real money and real clients. Small student teams are given US$200 in an AdWords account, Google’s flagship advertising product, to develop an online advertising campaign for a local business that is then run over a period of three consecutive weeks (Murphy et al. 2009; Neale et al. 2009).

The author of this present paper is not a participant of the inaugural Challenge but rather an “early adopter” who incorporated this academic exercise in an undergraduate e-Marketing course in the spring semester 2009 at a small University in the Pacific Northwest in the USA. Initial interest was raised at the American Marketing Association Summer Educator’s Conference in San Diego in fall 2008 attending a special session called “The Google Online Marketing Challenge: A Global Teaching and Learning Initiative” (Murphy et al. 2008).

Based on a review of the qualitative data and the free datasets of the 2008 Challenge that are provided on the Google website (, the purpose of this paper is to convey the excitement as well as some of the “nuts and bolts” – or lessons learned so far – while incorporating the Google Challenge in the classroom. In particular, the author identifies a dilemma between course design and course content. On the one hand, instructors who adopt the Google Challenge in the classroom are faced with the task of integrating project timing/deadlines into the semester schedule. On the other hand, the topic of keyword advertising usually does not appear in the curriculum until the broad section of promotion (as one of the 4 Ps) is covered which directly contradicts the knowledge needed to operate the AdWords interface. Thus, instructors face the decision of providing and/or teaching material that is related to the Google Challenge but not necessarily to the existing course schedule. The author proposes to incorporate practitioners working in the field of SEM/SEO (search engine marketing/search engine optimization) as guest speakers prior to starting the Google Challenge in addition to the Google handouts.


Murphy, J., Hudson, K., Hunter, L. and Neale, L. (2009): “The Google Online Marketing Challenge: Hands on Teaching and Learning,” Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education, forthcoming.
Murphy, J., Hunter, L., Hofacker, C., Lavin, M., Voorhees, C. and Canhoto, A. (2008): “The Google Online Marketing Challenge: A Global Teaching and Learning Initiative,” Special Session at the American Marketing Association Summer Educator’s Conference, August 10, 2008, San Diego.
Neale, L., Treiblmaier, H., Henderson, V., Hunter, L., Hudson, K. and Murphy, J. (2009): “The Google Online Marketing Challenge and Research Opportunities,” Journal of Marketing Education, forthcoming.