Following the announcement of her appointment as new 2020 AWARD School National Head, we caught up with Mandie van der Merwe, Executive Creative Director at M&C Saatchi, who shares some valuable insights about her new role and AWARD School.

TCC: What do you hope to bring to AWARD School as a new School Head?

Mandie: AWARD School has a pretty spectacular history with some of the best creative minds in Australia having come through the course. To be part of this is not only humbling, but it comes with a big responsibility to maintain the reputation and value that the School brings to our industry. Together with Josie Burns, our goal is to continue to find the brightest creative talent this country has to offer and to be more inclusive and accessible to people who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to consider this career. The way we will do this is by focussing on expanding the regional program. 

TCC:Do you have any tips for people thinking of applying for AWARD School 2020 (apart from attending the Application Workshop in November of course!)?
Mandie: Stop procrastinating! I’m always surprised at the number of people who tell me, “Oh, I was considering doing AWARD School this year, but….” This is a creative course for creatives but also for anyone who wants to get into this creative industry. You might not do AWARD School to pursue a career as a copywriter or art director. Some of the best strategists and account managers I’ve worked with have done this course. That’s because AWARD School is designed to help you understand what it takes to come up with a creative idea. That can help you understand how to write strategies that become fertile grounds for creativity and it can teach you how to protect the ideas that are born there. You will fall in love with creative thinking and problem-solving. But please don’t wait for the stars to align before you join the course.

TCC: What do you think are the most valuable lessons AWARD School students can learn from the course?
Mandie: Lateral thinking. What I love about creativity is that you learn, very quickly, that there are a gazillion ways to skin a cat. The structure of AWARD School allows you to be exposed to all the different and surprising ways in which your fellow students solve a brief. At first, you’ll recognize the similarities in your approach. But by paying attention to how the students around you think, you’ll start to realize what it takes to find unexpected connections and you’ll see the unexpected ways to solve problems.

TCC: What are some of the big challenges AWARD School applicants should get ready to face during the course?
Mandie: Time management. Most people have this idyllic notion that you crack a brief when you’re out at the pub drinking a beer. Sometimes this is the case! But, in my personal experience, most often this isn’t the case. The result is leaving too little time for both high- and low-focus thinking to solve a brief.

Brainstorming and solving creative challenges, especially when you’re new at it, takes concentration and practice. If you set aside time, every day, to answer briefs when you’re at your freshest, your book at the end of the course will be better for it. Create space for yourself to train your brain and get into a routine.

Don’t miss out on your chance to attend the AWARD School Application Workshop. Full details here.