Sunday 31 January 2021

AWARD School: ‘bloody challenging, incredibly rewarding’

AWARD School is back for 2021 and is shaping up to be better than ever. Advertising Council Australia caught up with National AWARD School Co-heads Mandie van der Merwe and Jack Nunn to find out what’s ahead this year, and why all aspiring creatives should apply for Australasia’s best – and most potentially career-defining – course in creative thinking.

AWARD School recently announced some great new initiatives for 2021 – tell us about some of the things you’re most excited about for AWARD School this year.

Mandie & Jack: It’s going to be an absolutely massive year. We’re really excited that for the first time AWARD School is going to be a truly national program, with shared content, mentoring and lectures (including the addition of practical master-class style lectures each week from some of Australia’s best creative thinkers).

We also wanted to open the course up to a broader range of students and find ways to bring diversity, new types of people and new thinking into the industry. So we’re expanding our Indigenous Scholarship program, offering a fully-online version of the course, making it available online for students in New Zealand and South-East Asia and introducing a commercial creativity initiative that hopefully attracts entrepreneurial thinkers.

And we’re touching wood, holding four-leaf clovers and crossing our fingers as we say this… but we’re definitely excited to be able to see students face-to-face again and maybe even have a cheeky post-lecture beer together.

What was behind the decision to introduce a new Commercial Creativity brief in 2021 and what will you be hoping to see from students in response to the new brief?

M&J: We want to slightly transition the focus of Award School from being solely a course about making creative commercials to a course about commercial creativity. Which at the end of the day is better aligned with the shift the industry has and continues to make – where print and radio ads are less relevant than media agnostic creative solutions to business problems. For us, it felt like students will be better equipped to succeed in creative departments if they go in with this kind of mindset. So the Commercial Creativity brief is a way for students to create a product, service, or business venture that solves a problem in a unique, interesting, novel, or creative way. It’s an opportunity to apply every learning about commercial creativity from the course and get a compelling pitch together – judged by a panel of real entrepreneur types. Creating a course that fosters entrepreneurial pursuits as well as advertising is something we’re both passionate about and who knows – maybe we’ll uncover the next Hawkes Brewery, Who Gives A Crap, or some other Aussie business success story.

Deciding to apply for AWARD School can be a bit daunting for aspiring creatives who may have heard how challenging the course can be. What advice would you offer as School Heads to anyone still undecided about applying this year?

M&J: The rumours are true… it’s bloody challenging! But it’s also incredibly rewarding and potentially career-defining. Our advice to anyone thinking of applying is: go for it. The entire theme for this year’s course is Enter Raw. Exit Ready, and we chose that because we really want to stress that you don’t have to be a polished thinker or have industry experience or even know loads about advertising to begin with. All you need is raw creativity and determination and you’ll be able to walk away 12 weeks later ready to take the next step in your creative career. If you’re even slightly toying with the idea of doing the course right now; stop reading this, open a new tab and register for our free Info Night on 10 Feb. When applications open on 11 Feb download the application brief and see how you go. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

What do you remember as some of your own AWARD School highlights when you did the course?

M: I’ve tutored and co-run AWARD School, but did the South African equivalent as a young creative. So I’ll leave this one to Jack.
J: I vividly remember getting to about half-way through the course and genuinely feeling like I had just learnt more in 6 weeks than I had in 6 years of high school and 3 years of a uni degree. Bizarre. I also remember Ralph van Dijk doing the radio lecture in week 3 and he told a story about a campaign they made for a computer game where players had to catch criminals whilst playing as a Virtual-Cop. The radio campaign idea was to actually go to a prison in the UK and record real inmates talking about being scared of this Virtual-Cop. It was really good. I could feel my brain slowly expanding in real-time. My perception of ‘radio ads’ was just so limited until that moment. Stuff like that kept happening throughout the course.

Are there any AWARD School learnings that you still carry with you each day?

J: Loads. But one that always seems to ring true is: Perspiration beats Inspiration.
M: Totally, but my learning comes from being a tutor. The biggest learning for me was the realisation that the energy you bring to the room really changes how people respond to tough feedback. It’s a learning that’s still valuable as an ECD, you have to bring the energy you want to see in your department to everything you do.

Thinking of applying for AWARD School 2021? Watch our video to get a taste of what’s in it for you. You should also attend our free Info Night on 10 February: register here.

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