Two weeks ago, with a knot in my stomach the size of Timbuktu, I hit submit on my AWARD School folio. Just like that, twelve weeks of blood, sweat, and full-blown anxiety attacks were over.
The first ten weeks were a celebration of unabashed creativity that I’d never experienced before. My only experience in this industry is within an agency environment, which carries with it real-world restrictions and a need to mould creative work to fit the specifications of those holding the purse strings.
AWARD School is the antithesis of that environment. The ordinary rules don’t apply, client expectations are non-existent, and some of the most successful work is work that probably wouldn’t sell much of anything in the real world.
In a funny way, this is a fairly accurate nod to one of the biggest problems with the traditional advertising industry as we see it at 50 Crates. There are far too many people and agencies claiming to be creative, not to move products or generate sustainable brand growth, but to win awards that serve their own reputations.
Success should be measured by sales, market share, consumer feedback and purchase intent. But many agencies are instead focussed on virality, awards, praise from their peers and similarly vacant measures.
And clients are easily sucked in by the PR and glitz of AWARD Season, seduced by having their brand name on the lips of thousands even if they have no intention of ever putting it in their shopping cart.
My final weeks of AWARD School saw me struggling with this tension between my instinct to favour work that would realistically drive results, and the understanding that my goal was really to make a middle-aged white male judge amused enough to linger for a moment before flicking to the next page of my folio.
In the end, the middle-aged white man won in 9/10 cases. He only lost in the one because I didn’t have an idea good enough to impress him.
That being said I loved every second of the experience. Even the seven-hour folio review that concluded at2am on a Tuesday. I needed the opportunity to get away from client expectations for long enough to unlock the potential of my own creativity. I needed to learn how to push for the best idea rather than settle for the one that’s most likely to get approved.
But now that it’s over and I’m back to work, I’m committed to mastering the balance between bold creativity and KPI-kicking work. The sweet spot exists, you just need to find it.
Annabel Begeng, Junior Copywriter @ 50 Crates