AWARD School is an annual intensive 12 week course for copywriters, art directors and professional advertising creatives who want to learn how to generate great ideas.
Run by the The Australasian Writers and Art Directors Association and bringing in tutors from top Australian advertising agencies, it has an awesome reputation for being both extremely challenging and ultimately rewarding. Applying is easy. Getting in, not so much. You submit some ideas in response to the application brief and answer a few questions to showcase your thinking ability, not your art prowess. Each year over 500 apply. Only 200 get a place.
This year saw the first roll-out of an online delivery for regional participants, and OOTS’ very own Art Director, Jo Buckland was talented enough to be accepted into the 2020 cohort.
“I knew it was a course that was highly prestigious and well regarded within the industry”, said Jo. “I’d heard good things. It was something I’d considered for years but was hesitant about going to Sydney twice a week while working full time. When I found out about the online regional course, I decided to give it a go and apply.”
“I had to submit ideas as black and white scamps in response to a series of briefs as part of the application process. My favourite one was ‘Find a bad ad and make it better’, which was actually easy because there are a lot of bad ads out there!”
AWARD School took place during the COVID-19 lockdown so the course was delivered online for all students, not just the regional participants. Each week a lecture exploring a particular aspect of advertising was delivered on Monday, then a related brief issued in the tutorial on Thursday. Jo was working from home at the time and reckons the experience was actually great.
“Lockdown meant there were no social distractions and I literally did nothing but work (OOTS) and Award School. It filled up my time and it made that lockdown period go by quickly. I also didn’t feel like I was missing out since everyone had the same online experience.”
“The lectures were always insightful and interesting. I really enjoyed being able to learn from and talk to other creatives, including some top names (ECDs etc.) in the industry. It was particularly interesting to see how other agencies were coping during COVID.
“Some briefs were harder than others. The most challenging part was probably the build up of briefs over the weeks and the stress of not nailing a brief yet from four weeks ago, but still getting a new brief every week. Having to rework on briefs week after week was never that fun.
“Surprisingly, I enjoyed the strategy and radio briefs the most, which was strange for me because they’re not the type briefs I would normally work on. I also enjoyed the print brief.
“I learned the importance of creative and strategy needing to work together in any brief. My design background makes me want to jump straight to the pretty bits. It was actually really refreshing to not have to think of execution at all and focus 100% on the idea – making sure it hit the strategy.”
Jo’s biggest takeaway however, was just how mentally tough being a creative is.
“Creative opinion is so subjective and the creative process so fluid. You can come up with a clever idea after one brainstorm session, or it might take a few goes. You could spend hours or days and come up with something you really believe in, just to be told ‘no’. There’s no right or wrong answer, and it comes down to what the decision makers believe and how good you are at selling the idea. I find that the most successful ideas and campaigns happen when there is trust and respect within the team, and trust from the client.”