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Campaign Brief (AUS/NZ) Online.
Campaign Brief Magazine : July August 2008
AW ARD SCHOOL 25TH A NNI V ERSARY Ray Blackon AWARDSchool: The gorillais outof the cage Ray Black, who founded AWARD School 25 years ago, recalls how it all started and marvels at how many careers it has kick-started since. Black was recently awarded a special Black Pencil from AWARD for his invaluable contribution to not only AWARD, but to the Australian advertising business in general. under thei r desk s th at c ould b e turned into ready cash. They were always on the look out for an y s tray, clin king , g aily wrapped parcels at Christmas, or a leg of ham that was left unattended for five minutes at reception. In this ruthless environment t hey hone d their opportunist survival skills. They aspired to be art directors and writers because it was a way out to more money, glamour, long lunches and be cou rted by film companies who woul d throw ros e p etal s i n their path. Note f ew young women had the oppor tunity t o cl imb t his ver y blokey ladde r into t he c rea tiv e department. This despatch and print p roduc- tion department cu lture was also the perfect training ground for sev- eral of today’s well-known ag ency chief executives, but I digress. Darwin’s theory of evo lution and justice finally struck. Couriers killed off despatch boys and print produc- tion ass istants also became an endangered species. If this was a significant c ause of THE AWARD SCHOOL WAS BORN DURING DIFFICULT TIMES. In 1982, we were in a recess ion we didn’t know we had. AWARD, conc ei ved ou t of a moment of passion with the hope of high ide als, was still just a fr agile four year old infant. In 1982 i ts prospe cts for sur vi val we re not good; i t had the baggage of accu - mulated debt due to substantial set- ting up costs and probably related, diminished goodwill. I was approached by Sta n Ma y, the prev ious AWARD chairman to be chai rman f or 1982. I ac cepted with some real doubt because even with our best efforts, it could only surv ive wi th t he su ppor t of its members, the industry and patrons. My aim for 1982 was to somehow get rid of the debt, if only to leave just $1 in our bank account to hand over at the end of the y ear . We achieved this by boosting Call f or Entries fees, holding in memb er- ships and bless them, the loyalty of our f ew patrons. It wasn’t quite as simple as that because it was entire- ly the re sul t of t he de dicated , dogged work by a great committee. At the core of it I fe lt AWA RD had a purp ose beyond be ing jus t a sel f–congra tul ati ng awardfest , a 14 CAMP AI GN B RIEF criticism often levelled at it. It also fitted the crit ics’ prejudice that A rt Directors and Writers can’t control budgets. You could put this next part down to some kind of mystical, Div ine Intervention or just si mple c om- monsense. Was there an ind ustry need that AWARD could address? The penny was about to drop. Let’s revisit the landscape in 1982. In 1982 the ad vertising ind ustry was growing fast a nd was desper- ately short of art directors and writ- ers. In an attempt to meet that need agencies attracted a lot of ‘Pommie’ art directors and writers. We gained several brilliant talents but s adly, many were pathetically mediocre. Up to 1982 the normal path to the creati ve depart ment wa s v ia t he dangerous swampl and called the print production department. Here you had two species, b oth as cun - ning as s hit house rats ; d espatch boys and print produc tion a ssis- tants, both with highly d eveloped survival skills. These were always yo ung b lokes who devel ope d many scams t o boost their incomes, such as pock- eting the difference between a bu s and a cab fare and accumul ating pi les of print me dia sc rap metal our shortage of young tal ent c om- ing through, to me the opportunity for AWARD was obvious: grow and develop our own talent. There had been a few earlier train- ing schemes in the 1970s but they didn’t last. The key to constructing a scheme that could work w as to enlist a handful of top creatives who wanted to commit the ir time and contribute by putting something worthwhile back into the industry. The concept I put t ogether was dif ferent to ear lie r sc hemes and remains largely unchanged today. A key feature of its difference is conti- nuity of tutors for the d uration of the twelve week c lass . P revious schemes for example, had s tudents confused by different tuto rs who had widely differing philosophies. The AWARD School’s aim was to give continuity of tutor so each stu- dent gained a folio of work devel - oped in a near real world environ- ment. Students would b e t rained not by academics but by s ome of our best creative dir ectors. They would stay with that t utor for the duration of the course. It could also overcome the Catch 22: No f olio wit hout a job, no j ob with out a folio. The curriculum would major on how to find, develop and express fresh, practical advertising ideas. Curiously, when I presented the School idea to my committee I used the working title ‘AWARD School’, much lik e ‘Vol kswagen’ was the working title for the People’s Car. Our working title also stuck. I was blessed with a great commit- tee who helped shape it and all were enthusiastic t o get it up and run- ning. Our plan was to announce the AWARD School at the AWARD Presentation Dinner, start promot- ing the School from late 1982 and start the School early the next year. My commit tee comprised: John Nankervis (vice chairman), David Morris, Bani Mc Spedden, Tony Stewart, Phil Gough, Tony Lunn, Elle Kikker t, Sand ra Hook and Wayne Garland. John became Chairman for 1983 and our first AWARD School start- ed in March that year. The AWARD School is now cele- brating twenty-five successful years. Its ongoing success is due to the dedication shown by hundreds of generous senior art directors, writ- ers and creative directors who con- tinue to freely give of their time and talent to he lp grow our own. It ha s always been a b ig ask of them to commit their time which they have always don e wit h en thusiasm. Congratu lat ions must also go to those agency managements who embraced the idea by opening their agencies af ter h ours for classes. Thanks also to Peter Gaunt from the magazin e publishin g world (befor e FO LIO Awar ds ) who kicked the c an with a modest but needed industry patronage to help get i t off the ground in tha t critical fir st year. Dav id Spear s fr om Reader’ s Digest was also a great champion of AWARD School. On reflection, the virtual extinc- tion of despatch boys and print pro- duction assistants with their limited gene pool turned out to be a posi- tive for the industry. We suddenly gaine d stud ents from a di ver se range of backgrounds, cultures and experi ences , all d eepen ing and enriching ou r creative gene pool . They were wai ters , salespeopl e, kitchen hands, r eceptionists, secre- taries, cab drivers, tradesmen as well as a few from the client world and the media departments of ad agencies. Along the way it gave women, for the first time, the chance to suc- cessfully climb the previously cre- ative depar tmen t blokey ladder. That chance was long denied them because that was simply the way it was; it is not t he way it is now. Look at their numbers and look at their brilliant work nationally ? JU L Y /AUGU ST 2 0 08
May June 2008