What did AWARD School teach me as a PR practitioner?

AWARD School is a special course for people who want to become copywriters/art directors in the advertising industry. It’s a course about IDEAS, CREATIVE THINKING & the PROCESSES involved in coming up with great ideas & ultimately good ads ~ AWARD School.

I applied for AWARD School knowing that I was happy with my career as a PR professional (and not as a copywriter or art director), but I wanted to strengthen my ideation process, i.e. coming up with good ideas that resonate deeply.

I’m able to write long hand well (press releases, pitches, speeches, etc) but coming up with the right 10-12 words and a few pictures to establish a core idea? Yep, that’s the reason why I applied.

The application to AWARD School is actually based on skill and not just interest. The entrance application consisted of several mock briefs which the applicant needed to draw an ad for each of them. In Sydney, only 100 applicants are admitted each year; this year had 250+ applications, and I was one of the lucky ones that got in.

3 months on, AWARD School has now made me critique every ad I see or hear in my daily life; thinking about the core idea and the insight that led a person or team to develop the final design.

The majority of ads I see these days are not too exciting.

Brief 2: Print

In our weekly lectures and tutor groups (one each per week for 12 weeks), we were taught by some of the best creative minds working in the industry, from recognisable agencies like Leo Burnett, M&C Saatchi, DDB, Zoo (Google), Droga5, and Eardrum.

We were taught that an idea is basically two or more existing ideas combined in a unique way to visually articulate the brief’s proposition or key message. The final ad must also help solve the client’s business problems and not just trying to win an award. It’s how you get repeat business as an agency – like any service career.

We were taught to sell emotion, not just the product; to reach the customer truth, the invaluable consumer insight; to make the customer love the product.

We were taught to make the simple complicated and the complicated simple.

We were taught that good TV ads stay on TV and great TV ads get shared by everyone and remembered by everyone.

I implore you to think about this for a second.

Can you name an ad that you saw on TV last night? Last week? Last month? Last year? Now think about an online YouTube video that was clearly an advertisement. That’s what all creatives aspire to, to become the next epic split and to be recognised for doing so.

We were taught what constituted as a good ad, and what constituted a shit one.

Brief 2: Print

We were taught about how to convert a consumer insight to an idea, and the idea to an execution. The strategy behind this process is imperative. “Never start with the execution,” someone said to the class once, “it’s probably going to be a bad ad if you do.”

And of course, we were taught how to think and write for different mediums: Print, TV, Radio, Online, Outdoor, Integrated, Digital, and all the different nuances in between.

Three months later, the skills that I’ve learnt has now propelled me to think differently. It’s already led to great brainstorming sessions for PR ideas, happy clients, and great new business pitches.

So thanks AWARD School, it’s been a pleasure.

I was tutored by the talented and patient folks at Wunderman Australia (April-May) and M&C Saatchi Australia (May-June).

You can check out my final portfolio here.

Brief 2: Print

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