Australian universities were the cream of the crop in Google's inaugural University Online Marketing Challenge, with a student team from the University of Western Australia named global winner, while a team from UNSW took out the APAC regional win.
The competition involved 8,500 students from 47 countries and was aimed at providing tertiary students with "hands-on" experience in online advertising.
1,650 student teams received US$200 to spend on Google AdWords advertising, and worked in conjunction with local SMEs to develop online marketing campaigns. The groups had to assess the results of their campaigns, and recommend ways to boost the business' online presence.
Google used its "magic formula" to whittle the hundreds of groups down to 15 finalists, five from each region of Europe, the Americas and APAC, based on the success of their AdWords campaign.
The student groups were required to produce two competition reports; a pre-campaign strategy and a post campaign summary.
An academic panel consisting of around a dozen professors from all over the world then judged the finalists, with the major focus on the reports rather than the utilisation of AdWords in order to ensure the driving force behind the challenge was an academic one.
The global winner, a team of UWA commerce students (Victor Tsen, Lauren Bobridge, Amy Smith, Aron Balm and Arina Vsikov) led by Dr Fang Liu, devised a search marketing campaign for a Perth-based indoor rock climbing and abseiling centre called The Hangout.
Their campaign drove hundreds of additional visitors to The Hangout's Web site, significantly boosting its online presence.
Each member of the UWA team wins a MacBook Pro, and will head to San Francisco for a week to tour Google's headquarters, dubbed the Googleplex.
The UNSW team -- from the Australian Graduate School of Management -- that took out the APAC regional honours had worked with a specialty cake business called For The Love Of Sugar.
Led by Dr Julien Cayla, the team was made up of MBA students Danny Van Clief, Daniel Jolly, Sean Harpur, Jason von Stieglitz and captain Fiona Macrae. They will each receive a MacBook for their regional win.
Google Australia's marketing manager, Ashley Gorringe, said the competition was developed to give students a practical taste of online marketing while they were still studying.
"UWA and AGSM developed great campaigns and have shown the world how innovative Australian universities can be, plus how easy online marketing is for small and medium-sized businesses," he said.
According to Google, 75 percent of the local businesses strongly agreed that participating in the challenge was a wise business decision, while 63 percent of professors believed the challenge engaged students better than traditional teaching models.