Wednesday 08 July 2020

Karen Ferry on all things AWARD

Karen Ferry is stepping down from the AWARD Committee after three distinguished years marked by a number of outstanding achievements including her enormous and lasting contribution to AWARD School and AWARD Awards. We recently caught up with Karen for a chat about her time with AWARD and why the organisation matters so much to our industry.

TCC: What have been your most proud achievements during your time on the Committee?

Karen: I went in expecting to get my hands dirty and I did it wholeheartedly on two things: the first was developing AWARD School to match the needs of 2018/2019, and the second was completely rebuilding the AWARD Awards category criteria for the 2020 awards to be globally in line with D&AD and the recent changes to the Cannes Lions.

TCC: What makes AWARD so important for our industry?

Karen: AWARD unofficially plays many roles for the advertising industry in Australia – it’s not only an award show. It also offers training, education, a network for creatives and at times a body that fights for the needs and rights of the industry. 

It also gives creatives their ‘first chance’ at everything. Their first chance to be CDs and learn how to give feedback as AWARD School tutors. Their first chance to be on a judging panel with AWARD Awards. It’s a great forum for fostering talent, and I think we’re all so lucky as a country that we sometimes forget to acknowledge this.

TCC: You obviously played a major part in AWARD School while serving on the Committee: what were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role?

Karen: So I was national AWARD School co-head, which is a two year volunteer role. And it pretty much involved 24 months of non-stop work, which I jumped into straight after 4 months of tutoring. Finding the energy and persistence to do it outside of work for such a long period was quite challenging. 

BUT! The reward is always the hope that we’re making things better, right? My main goal going into the role was to establish more structure in Sydney and also in other states that allowed our network of school heads and tutors to be better equipped to tutor and teach each student to a more consistent level. 

Part of this was further developing our learning curriculum, but also changing how we tutor, judge and teach to remove bias and create space for more diversity (and more interesting and unexpected ideas that don’t fit the mould) to flourish. And looking at the top students, but also in the students that got through application, showed that this actually works. 

We’ve had more female applicants than ever before. We’ve introduced an Indigenous Scholarship. We had a top student in NSW that was female for the first time in almost 30 years. And a person of colour, and a woman, nabbing National Winner for the first time in decades. 

It’s about creating systems and attitudes that don’t hold people back, but allow everyone the opportunity to excel. Because someone’s skin colour doesn’t make them worse at ideas. Their gender doesn’t make them worse at ideas. Nor their sexual preference, or their economic background, or where they grew up, or the languages they speak at home.

AWARD School provides the entry point for so many creatives into the industry, so hopefully through having more diverse graduates now, we’ll be able to see the effect of this in agencies and in the work in 5-10 years’ time.

TCC: How would you like to see AWARD evolve over the next few years?

Karen: I think we’ve seen a lot of evolution of AWARD in the last year under [AWARD Chair] Cam Blackley’s direction, and I feel like the changes through COVID-19 have only helped progress it more. 

But there is so much opportunity for other people to be at the table. Not just in other Australian agencies, but also regionally, and through New Zealand and Asia. 

The bigger AWARD gets, the stronger it will become!

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