Advertising students win multiple awards and gain valuable experience at the ADDYs
By Nina Tabios
It has been a successful awards season for the School of Advertising (ADV), but let’s have the numbers do the talking: one student silver award from the American Advertising Awards (or the ADDYs), a gold D&AD New Bloods prize, seven winning entries for the Young Ones student contest and a whopping 50 San Francisco regional ADDYs, with Academy of Art University students taking home bronze, silver, and gold, plus one Best in Show.
“We cleaned up this year,” beamed Andrea Pimentel, co-director of the Schools of Advertising and Web Design & New Media. “We’re so proud of everybody. We always believed our students could do it and now the industry knows too.”
Winning awards can be a huge leg up in the industry. For graduates and young creatives, an award can be the stepping stone into an internship, a job, maybe even higher education.
But win or lose, competing is also exposure to companies, professionals, different markets, other young creatives, and new ideas. Art direction alumnus Max Gawell, one-fourth of the top-shelf student silver ADDY award-winning crew behind the Adidas Runtastic x ASPCA campaign, said, “Eighty percent of what we do is for awards.”
“Some teachers encourage us to be in awards because it’s such a big deal in advertising to attempt competitions. If you get an award, you have a better chance at getting a job,” said Gawell, who is an art director at AirBnB. “So it’s important.”
Per Pimentel, it can be a “big vote of confidence”: “When a new student is hired, the company is taking a gamble on them essentially,” she said. “Awards say they’ve been vetted by the industry a bit.”
Sometimes, competing can even just be good practice. Eric Boheman, a 2019 B.F.A. advertising alumnus and the SF ADDY’s Best in Show student winner, alluded to it as “actually a really healthy exercise.” Boheman said it gave him a project outside of class to really develop a campaign on something he deeply cared about. So, he came up with Animal Jenga, a clever and poignant message on animal conservation.
“We keep pulling pieces from these animals’ environments,” he explained. “Maybe there isn’t a direct consequence right now, maybe we don’t feel the consequences right now but sooner than later the entire environment will collapse, the animal population will collapse. I felt that Jenga was really a great way to show this; in Jenga you’re pulling the pieces until it falls altogether.”
Sheila Guo (B.F.A. art direction, 2018) took home a gold SF ADDY for her campaign, Make It Your Louvre. Her idea initially spawned in an advanced campaign class that she then primed for submission. The final concept was a four-piece initiative complete with a total rebrand, a UI app, pop-ups, and an interactive bus stop. Guo said there is tons of learning happening while doing competitions.
“If I’m not submitting into a contest, then I’m participating in a boot camp,” said Guo, referring to the weeklong contest hosted by creative think tank, The One Club for Creativity. “I think all of it helps me grow in collaboration and teamwork. I try to consider them as research too, not as a side thing—it helps me identify more about myself and gives me the confidence to do another one.”
Aron Ramstedt, a B.F.A. copywriting student, shares a similar sentiment. He was on the same crew that won this year’s student silver ADDY and the group—made up of Gawell, recent graduate Sam Salehian and B.F.A. art direction senior Frans Ahlberg—competed with regularity their last few semesters at the Academy. Sometimes they paired off: Ahlsberg and Ramstedt will partner up, while Gawell and Salehian do the same, to put to work the skills and knowledge earned from each successive competition.
“You always improve after doing a bunch of these,” said Ramstedt, who interned at FCBWest this past summer. “You realize that you just need to keep it simple, that the jury sits in a room auditing up to 100 student submissions every day. So you need to keep it simple, keep it short, keep it sweet. Just grab their attention. I think that’s what I’ve gotten out of it the most.”
“One thing that comes out of us competing is that all four of us know how to shoot, edit, we know how to do everything ourselves from start to finish,” Salehian added, who is also at AirBnB as an art director.
Regardless of the outcome, all four Swedes agree doing competitions is a chance to gain good experience and good exposure. But being able to say you won feels pretty great also.
“There’s so many ad students in the world and there’s so few that actually get awards,” Salehian mentioned. “Also for our parents, they don’t really know what we’re doing, so just the fact that we won an award, it sounds so nice.”
“Yes,” Ramstedt agreed. “It’s so nice to call home and say we won an award.”