Live Oak campaign earns ADDY, Best of Show awards

The student-run strategic communications and design agency was celebrated on March 7 at the American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) gala, hosted in Raleigh by the American Advertising Federation of the Triangle (AAF Triangle).

Live Oak Communications students stand together celebrating their ADDY Award.
Elon University students gather on March 7 to celebrate Live Oak Communications’ award-winning night at the American Advertising Awards gala, hosted in Raleigh by the American Advertising Federation of the Triangle. Pictured (from left) are Charlotte Turner ’25, Ally Sheridan ’24, Brynn Goldman ’24, Matt Newberry ’24, Jessi Jennings ’24, Alexa Morrissey ’25, Ryan Margaret Lee ’24, Leah Schneider ’24 and Ayla Brongo ’25.

In the days following the March 7 American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) gala, where Live Oak Communications was celebrated not once but twice, Matt Newberry ’24 was quite candid.

“The Best of Show award is the biggest award you can get from the ADDYs,” said the communication design and Spanish double major, and one-time Live Oak creative director. “And after winning it two years ago, it was unclear whether we’d get it again.”

But last fall as members of the student-run strategic communications agency began developing their Blue Ribbon Diner Family-Friendly Brand Affinity Campaign, Newberry saw the project’s potential. The campaign was extensive and featured new merchandise, revamped children’s menus, a fresh photoshoot, and various other strategies to enhance the restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere.

Matt Newberry stands with a huge smile and two ADDY awards.
Newberry celebrates with two ADDY awards at the March 7 American Advertising Awards gala in Raleigh.

“I knew it was expansive and impressive enough to have the potential for awards,” he said.

Sure enough, Newberry was right.

During the AAF Triangle’s gala event recognizing the best in advertising from Central and Eastern North Carolina, Live Oak captured a Gold ADDY Award in the Cross-Platform Integrated Brand Identity Campaign category, as well as a Best of Show Award in the chapter’s student division.

“This honor was definitely a senior year ‘bucket-list’ item for me,” Newberry said. “And it felt so rewarding that our campaign could garner the attention after spending so many months developing it for one of Live Oak’s most loyal clients.”

While the ADDY awards bear his name, Newberry deflected credit and thanked the entirety of the Live Oak creative team, especially Jessi Jennings ’24, who served as his assistant creative director. In his celebratory LinkedIn post, Newberry listed a dozen students who positively impacted the award-winning project.

The campaign began early last fall with Becca Chase ’24 and Natalie Iammarino ’24, Live Oak’s former agency director and assistant agency director, identifying potential goals for Blue Ribbon Diner with Newberry. Soon thereafter, he found an unfinished T-shirt concept for the restaurant from a few years ago and enlisted the Live Oak creative staff to help expand upon it for a full-fledged campaign. It proved to be a bonding experience for the team and, most importantly, Blue Ribbon loved the ideas the students generated.

Live Oak staff members created a vibrant new T-shirt, in addition to several other merchandise concepts for sweatshirts, socks, hats, stickers, patches and magnets. For a closer look at the designs, check out Newberry’s website. Additionally, a photoshoot was held to “re-capture the spirit and atmosphere” of the restaurant for future projects and social media posts, Newberry said. The students also updated the brand’s typefaces “to match the family-friendly, modern-yet-retro style that we spent months curating,” he explained.

For Jennings, the ADDY awards are validation of the students’ hard work and time, as well as why the creatives joined Live Oak.

“We feel eternally grateful and proud to have received both of these recognitions for a campaign that we poured so much creative energy into,” said the communication design and media analytics double major. “We saw the potential for this campaign and as a team we ran with it, and we are thrilled that the judges appreciated our work.”

A T-shirt highlighting Blue Ribbon Diner.
In Live Oak’s creative archives, Newberry found an unfinished design that was left by former staff members of a T-shirt concept personifying the Dirty Dog, a notorious menu item at Blue Ribbon Diner. Under Newberry’s direction, staff members brought the concept to life this past fall with a new campaign featuring merchandise and advertising options. Photo courtesy of

Senior Lecturer Hal Vincent, Live Oak’s faculty director, said he appreciates the time and care his staff put into the campaign, and that the recent accolades highlight the organization’s continued pursuit of quality work.

“The recognition of the students named and the many others and teachers/mentors behind the scenes of Live Oak continues to thrill me every year,” Vincent said in a Live Oak news release. “Knowing how these students are winning awards for work coming from a non-traditional class for real local community partners, as opposed to a class simulation, is real testament to the many benefits of Elon’s commitment to signature student experiences.”

Newberry credits Vincent and Assistant Professor Shannon Zenner, Live Oak’s former faculty creative adviser, for their unending support, teaching Live Oak members how to handle client work and team management.

“Hal is always willing to innovate and support any new ideas we have about how Live Oak should run,” he said. “I am so grateful for his leadership, especially after working in management. Additionally, Dr. Z has always pushed me harder than I can usually push myself. Because of her, as well as my other awesome communication design professors, I feel very confident and equipped for a career in design post-grad.”

Likewise, Jennings thanked Vincent and Zenner for their unwavering support, ensuring that students grow and learn at Live Oak.

“Live Oak is unparalleled in countless aspects,” she said. “You learn to build client relationships, to communicate effectively across teams, to time manage to meet a concrete deadline. For a creative in Live Oak, a whole new skill set is fostered through collaboration, brainstorming and critiquing. Live Oak provides a priceless learning experience that you simply can’t get in the classroom.”

Live Oak Communications

A student-run strategic communications agency at Elon University, Live Oak Communications provides students with the unique experience of working with real-life clients in the Burlington area. Live Oak is made up of four teams – account, creative, analytics, and branding. With a group of young, vibrant leaders in the agency, Live Oak Communications creates exceptional campaigns with measurable results.

AAF Triangle

The AAF Triangle is the voice of the advertising industry in Central and Eastern North Carolina. The organization sponsors programs that promote education, diversity, public service and government relations for advertising agencies, in-house marketing teams, freelancers and students. The American Advertising Awards program begins at the local level, to the district level, and ultimately to the national level.