A letter to the 2020 AWARD School Cohort from Ogilvy Sydney copywriter Lucas Fowler (right) and Ogilvy Sydney art director Jack Burton (left), graduates of AWARD School 2018.
Firstly, congratulations graduating class next week! They tell you it’s gonna be rough, but damn, it’s hard to put into words the cerebral round-house kick of that final sprint. As 2018 alumni, we still feel the sting.
To say you chose the wrong year to do AWARD School is a little bit of understatement. As a cohort, you didn’t even pull the short straw. You went to pull a straw, but you shifted your weight wrong and fell into a manhole.
In said manhole: No in-person tutorials, no in-person networking, no cheers-ing frothy ones at a graduation ceremony, and worst of all, you’ve been busting your book only to wrap up in the thick of a recession. Opportunities to break into this industry are scarce enough at the best of times, but 2020 really cranked it up a notch.
(That being said, outstanding job to this year’s AWARD School Heads, Tutors and Comms Council workers, they’ve nailed the #pivot to convert AWARD School into a hands-on online course, no easy feat!).
So you’re probably thinking, I’ve spent long waking nights trying to advertise a sleeping app for nothing. Fear not. We actually propose, despite the recession, global pandemic, isolation and horrors yet to come, that you have a better chance of being a successful creative than any previous year. More on that later.
First, a few nuggets of retrospective wisdom that we picked up along the way from our journey into adland.
#1 BREAK THE VIRTUAL WALL
It’s crazy to think that many of you still haven’t met each other in person. This poses a bit of a problem when your first objective is to pair up and find your forever penguin.
As you’ll find out, partnering up is a pretty intense experience that requires a lot of face to face time. You normally know you’re cooking with gas when you can comfortably tell each other that their ideas are shit and do it regularly. This won’t end well behind a screen.
So get out and get in each other’s face, from a social distance of course. Way back when, we met up over a boozy schnitzel, then proceeded to travel between Newcastle and Sydney over many weekends to complete work for our book. It was these trips that forged our partnership.
TLDR: While you should be desperately sliding into your cohort’s DM’s, make sure the next step is IRL.
#2 KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Socially distance yourself from ECDs until you have a healthy book. The temptation once you have a combined book with your best AWARD ideas in there is to force it in front of as many employing eyes as possible, alas, chill.
You need to show you can have ideas as a pair, not just the ability to make a collage with your Tesla radio scripts.
It took us 2-3 months to get a handful of ideas that gave us a book worth interviewing with. So, in this time, make your website beautiful, scary and uniquely you. Get people you respect to view and critique it before pestering agencies. As you’ll find out, first impressions last and are often your only chance.
#3 BE UNPRECEDENTED
Even in these unprecedently unprecedented times, you need your book to be even more unprecedented.
Firstly, burn your print ads, unless they’re something out of Banksy’s AWARD Book they need to be part of a bigger idea. We didn’t have a single traditional ad in our book. In fact, most weren’t even ads. Just ideas. Ads are but pithy things that have their time on the side of a bus then dissolve into nothing. Ideas, on the other hand, live forever; capable of changing cultures, people and the world. So, you know, go with ideas.
We sought out solutions for agencies ‘darling’ clients (ones that agencies do great work for), but we also looked beyond to surprise ECD’s with work for their dry clients like Government. We even threw in an idea for UNICEF to show large-scale thinking. Show that range of ideas you can come up with.
Secondly, if you’re struggling to come up with ‘big’ ideas, that’s okay. Think about what non-advertising side hustles you can start up to flex your creative skills. We’re not talking about having to start up something like SpaceX, just a small whacky thing that gets across your flair, like being a hairdresser for your hamster or writing poems about pickles. Most ECDs are eccentrics so they’ll eat that stuff up like Vegemite.
Now, you may commence Operation Spam-a-lot.
#4 SPREAD IT
Now that you’ve reached Step 4, you’ve got your ammunition, it’s time to fire on all cylinders.
You’re about to find that for a communications industry, people are really bad at communicating.
Going through traditional channels often leaves you feeling unloved and demanding attention.
Jack’s hack was emailing agency addresses with a rogue twist. He’d target certain people’s inboxes by writing their email address as ‘first name’ full stop ‘last name’ @ ‘agency name’ dot com dot ‘au’. Surprisingly accurate.
Another way was cold messaging ECDs and CDs on LinkedIn. While you’re going to get ignored a lot, you’ll get some responses back and 1 out of 100 ain’t bad. Never take it personally, it’s easy to forget that these people are some of the busiest people you’ll ever meet, so keep up your resilience in the face of rejection and radio silence.
When you do break through to someone, don’t put the pressure on to make it an interview – just ask them for their sage advice on your book. Very smooth, very classy.
P.S. Don’t be afraid to be extra. We sent an ECD flowers for his birthday, and it got our foot further in the door. I mean, we forgot to put our name on them so he didn’t know they were from us, but we felt good about it.
#5 DITCH THE TRACKIES
You’ve probably done AWARD in your PJ’s because that’s definitely how we would have done it. When it comes to interviews though, it’s time to get out of the comfort wear and present yourself. Now obviously this last tip is optional, you can dress however you want but oozing dapperness helped us get in the zone to absolutely sell ourselves.
Another way to stand out in an interview and really sell an idea is think about how to pitch your ideas. We brought props along to one interview and that’s the job we have today. So at the very least, be presentable, at the very most, get crazy with how you present yourself.
But in the end, from making it through AWARD School this year, you’ve shown you’ve got the drive that is essential to making it in this industry, regardless of timings. Managing to complete 10 briefs with the absence of any form of normality is not only honourable but a kind of unspoken certification that you kicked AWARD School’s butt when it was in Boss Mode.
You: 1. The toughest year of AWARD School Ever : 0.
To tie this up, we learnt that sometimes the hardest part of getting off the ground is getting that initial feedback on your book. Hit us up on firstname.lastname@example.org with your portfolio and we’ll give you some pointers, praise and criticism.
To the most resilient cohort to finish AWARD School, show us what you’ve got.