Competing against over 140 teams from start to finish, MBA candidates Phillip Gingras and Marta Michalek have won first place, $30,000 and the title of Canada’s Next Top Ad Executives in this prestigious competition.

The annual Canada’s Next Top Ad Executive competition centers around a sponsoring company that presents a major marketing challenge to all teams. This year’s sponsor, Canadian Tire, asked competitors to develop a marketing plan to launch a millennial loyalty program.

The competition was divided into three increasingly competitive phases that began with an open call for submissions back in January. Teams had to provide a brief of their creative marketing solution. Of the estimated 142 submissions, only 25 teams were selected to advance to the second phase of the competition. Here they produced a 15-page marketing plan for their concept.

The top 10 teams entered the third and final phase, in which finalists gave a 25-minute presentation to a panel of 22 senior marketing executives. (Whew!)

“[Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec] is unlike any other case competition,” says Marta. “It tests your ability to think of a big creative idea, and to use insights to back it up.”

To advance through all three rounds requires a great concept for sure – but it also takes a strong, committed team with major business chemistry.

As it turns out, a bit of luck brought competitors Marta and Phillip together.

“I almost didn’t sign up for the competition because I had so much going on,” recalls Marta. “But I ended up following a friend to the January info session. It was here that I ran into Phil – and the rest is history!”

The two worked well together because of their opposite but complementary strengths. “I had a lot of ideas in our brainstorming sessions, and creative ways to present them,” says Marta. “Phil is extremely good at research and made sure that all of our ideas had solid data backing them up.”

One thing the partners shared? A willingness to take risks in their presentation.

“Both Phil and myself were ready to take a risk onstage,” said Marta. “We included jokes in our presentation and really committed to the delivery. We practiced like crazy and luckily it paid off!”

This win is an incredible achievement after months of hard work.

“It’s been a full-time job, but so worth it,” say the pair. “It will be one of the biggest highlights of our MBA.”

Congratulations, Marta and Phillip!