AWARD School – Halftime Report

I’m now halfway through AWARD school, six briefs deep and fighting for air. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learnt and my expectations compared to reality.

Note/Edit: I noticed after some responses on twitter that it might seem like AWARD school is bad or demeaning… This isn’t the case at all. It’s awesome! Almost all of what I say is in jest. All I mean by the repeated ‘you sucks’ is it is hugely educational and eye-opening. Also shout-out to my tutors Neil and Michael at AJF Partnership, cheers for all your help. 

Firstly, It’s bloody useful. I came into AWARD school after spending a year doing my own spec-work and research. I thought that it would be a good experience to work with like-minded others, but that it wouldn’t really teach me that much (how cocky). Here are five things I’ve learnt:

  1. You suck

    My first week, I bought in eight ideas and thought most of them were life altering. Every single one of them got turned down, and looking back, they sucked. Even after a year of doing my own thing, I still didn’t understand what made a good ad. That being said…

  2. You suck, so come up with lots of ideas

    Re: Lesson 3 (I wish I could say that this was all of it)

    Re: Lesson 2 – 6 Notebooks, A3 Booklet, A4 Booklet and loose leaf drafts – Wish I could say this was all of it.

    Like I said, my first week I bought in eight ideas. I edited them down from around 12. To come up with something good you just have to keep going. There’s no ‘right’ number, but if you can keep coming up with stuff then you probably haven’t done enough.The only way to come up with unique ideas is to trudge through the ones everyone else is having. That being said…

  3. You suck, and so does everyone else

    To any of my classmates reading this, I don’t mean you suck. I mean everyone does. Within 15 minutes of our first lecture, I found someone who used the same idea as me in their AWARD school application. Conversely, a few of the people I talked to used ideas I had come up with. If you think your idea is original, its probably not. (Sorry)

  4. You suck, so have a thick skin. (Though still listen)

    Your ideas are going to get torn to shreds, something you spend hours perfecting will get thrown to the side after a cursory glance. I can tell you, it kinda hurts the first few times. And the next few times after that. So you start drinking to numb the pain, and it slowly goes. But then it comes back and you try something harder. “Just this once”, you tell yourself. Then the old pain has gone but the…. Sorry, I got sidetracked. Have a thick skin and don’t take it to heart, because you probably suck.

  5. You suck because you don’t really know what an idea is

    I found ad-land’s preoccupation with ideas a tad pretentious. “Don’t worry philosophers”, they say. “You’ve spent two millennia trying to understand what an idea is, but we’ve got it figured out”. In all seriousness though, AWARD school helps you figure out what advertising ideas are, as well as how to make them. I suppose this is the money-shot, the Big Kahuna. When you figure out what an idea ‘is’, your ideas start to suck less. They start to go from ‘bad’, to ‘not-good’. A small, but important step. And really, as AWARD school will tell you, this is what it’s all about. Ideas.

Taking the above into consideration, there’s a few things about AWARD school that I didn’t fully understand:

  1. It ain’t group work. AWARD school is not collaborative. In fact, it’s super competitive. I though AWARD school was going to be a collaborative effort between copywriters and art directors. Instead it is every man for themselves, and people are very protective of their ideas. This isn’t a bad thing! It was just not what I expected. That being said…
  2. There are no ‘copywriters’ or ‘art directors’. AWARD school will not teach you how to write or art direct (is that what art directors do? Art direct?). It is taken for granted that you will already have these skills. As discussed above, AWARD is all about ideas. That being said…
  3. It’s hard to find a creative partner. This one’s in relation to points one and two. Seeing as you don’t work on briefs together, and there are no clear art director/copywriter roles, it’s hard to find a creative partner.

That’s it for now! I’ll write a fulltime report once it finishes up and let you know how I go. Hopefully this was of some use for those curious about doing it in the future. If you’ve done AWARD school and feel like I missed something please let me know in the comments!


  • Daniel Kershaw

    Hey mate,

    I am doing Award School too, but in a different state. I can relate to a lot of your comments. I get a fuzzy sort of feeling in my brain after I throw myself at a problem and I come up with nothing good time and time again.

    Best of luck for the rest of the course.