The Ins & Outs of Creating Winning ADDY Campaigns

The path to the winner’s circle isn’t always clear-cut. But having a map to navigate you through the course may be just the thing to help you reach that goal.

Earlier this year at the Austin American Advertising Federation (AAF) Student ADDY Awards competition, students from the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations won 38 out of 49 categories, sweeping “Judge’s Choice” and “Best of Show” and winning the top prizes in the fields of advertising, design and digital works.  

Domination, however, doesn’t come without a killer idea and strong execution. But how can you ignite your creative spark? And then effectively actualize your vision?

Three ADDY winners -- Allison Burzlaff, Matthew Adamiak and Nicole Streeter -- take us inside their creative process, sharing their “secret sauce” as well as advice for next year’s participants.

Student Best of Show: Design

“Sweet’n Low Taste Buddies” - Allison Burzlaff, Copywriter; Matthew Adamiak, Art Director

Q: How long was the preparation time for your winning piece?

Allison: We spent around two weeks blowing through mediocre ideas before we struck gold. After that, everything came together quickly because we were having so much fun.

Matt: Several weeks of trial and error. The road to success is rarely a straight line and trying to come up with a winning direction is a difficult task, especially with a product that so few people really think about in terms of consumption.

Q: When did the idea come to you? What was the spark?

Allison: Sweet ‘N Low’s greatest and most under-utilized asset is its existing tabletop real estate in nearly every restaurant in the country. Figuring out how to get people to pick up the packets and interact with the brand is the tough part. I can’t remember how many times we went to restaurants trying to spark ideas. Finally, I tore open a packet and stuck it on my finger and we instantly knew that was the way forward.

Matt: We decided we wanted to add a new level of interaction to the packaging, which was kind of the first step. We realized that people already play with the items on the table when they’re bored. They play with silverware, straw wrappers, and napkins to kill time. We knew there was a way to capitalize on that. Then one day, during a lunch meeting, Allison slipped an open packet on her finger and the realization hit us immediately.

Q: How is it working with a partner versus by yourself?

Allison: When you fly solo, it’s easy to self-censor your oddball ideas. Good partners (like Matt) see the opportunities in the oddball ideas and help you sound them out, round them out, and build upwards.

Matt: Some people work well by themselves but there’s really no substitute for working with a partner. The ability to bounce an idea off someone else who’s equally invested in the same project can help shape your idea into something magnificent. You can ask for outside opinions all you want but your best resource is sitting right across the table.

Q: What advice do you have for Portfolio students who want to compete for future ADDY awards?

Allison: Repeated use of the word ‘no’ is the quickest way to kill idea momentum. Every diamond starts out rough. Be a partner who looks for diamonds.

Matt: Focus on your people skills and try to work well with different types of personalities. The strength of your work depends on it. It’s very difficult to be a loner in this industry.

Q: How did the Texas Creative program help you in terms of your passion and winning awards?

Allison: Texas Creative taught me to push my ideas further instead of dismissing them. Also, I never would’ve won the Big Ad Gig last fall had I not been through the hell that is the week before Critique. Nothing could have prepared me better.

Matt: Texas Creative taught me that everyone has valuable input and inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Never take the smallest ideas for granted; they can become your greatest work.

Student Best of Show: Advertising

“Scotch Tape: Naturally Sticky” - Nicole Streeter, Art Director, Copywriter

Q: You won six awards at the ADDYs. What was your process for creating and executing your advertising campaigns?

Nicole: The [Portfolio] class is critique based and very open. I would bring my ideas to the class for the other ad students’ and professor’s feedback. Sometimes they would say they really loved my idea for a campaign. And then the professor would add his input as well.

Q: Did you seek input from outside sources?

Nicole: I sought advice from industry experts, my employers and roommates. Even my mother. Hearing what other people had to say, especially those who worked in the industry, was most helpful.

Q: What’s one thing you did that future ADDY competitors may not think to do but really should?

Nicole: Being aware of the latest industry trends really helped me with fresh angles for my ads. I constantly looked at AdWeek and other ad websites to see what’s winning. I think that’s the biggest way to get better ideas and create your own.

May 3, 2016

Xing Liu