This year’s College Competition was dominated by the Swedes

By Michael McLafferty

Aww, college. For some, it can mean non-stop partying, late night foolery and questionable behavior (the kind that would probably make their parents cringe). But every once in a while, it can actually mean tightening up one’s bootstraps and getting down to some serious business. There’s no better example of this than the 2009 One Show Education Festival, which brought out some of the best and brightest advertising and design students from around the world.

Over the course of three days on May 5-7, students and educators gathered in New York City to experience this truly inspiring event. Those lucky enough to attend not only got the opportunity to take part in the customized Agency Tours and the chance to speak one-on-one with famous creative directors in the portfolio reviews, but they also got the chance to schmooze and network with one another as they competed for top honors at the pinnacle of the festival, the College Competition Award Ceremony.

Students from all around the globe sent in over 2,000 pieces of work, ranging from an array of categories like integrated campaign, logo design and print campaign, with the hope of impressing the judges. This year’s brief asked students to help Long’s Horseradish go from a small, family-owned company, which sells the bulk of its products at a local farmer’s market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a gourmet condiment that will be sold at finer stores nationwide by redesigning the packaging or creating a nationwide ad campaign.

Needless to say, the competition was fierce. These already talented young professionals came up with a wide range of great work for the judges to delve through and decide who would come out on top.

“I focused on infusing as much personality into the logo as possible,” says Brian Brotman, a student at Tyler School of Art/Temple University in Philadelphia who took home the Silver Pencil for his logo design for Long’s Horseradish. “I believe that a brand with a lot of personality looks upscale by virtue of its uniqueness. The message that I was trying to convey is that Long’s Horseradish is a unique, upscale product, but that it has very down-to-earth and handmade roots.”

In the end, 21 entries were awarded Gold, Silver, or Bronze Pencils and 70 entries were given Merit Awards, but the night truly belonged to the Berghs School of Communication from Sweden as its students dominated much of the competition. The Swedes took home 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze Pencils in categories including online and innovative advertising. A team from Bergh’s also won the ever-important Client Pitch Competition, where they presented their campaign to a room full of advertising professionals and executives from Long’s.

“We approached the task with an ambition to really stand out and to do something different,” says Axel Söderlund, a student of Berghs whose team took home Gold for an integrated campaign (“Hoofmade Horseradish”) and Silver in online advertising (“Real Time Cooking”). “We realized that the media budget was minimal for this particular brand and that our chances of reaching as many people as possible would be through using the new media landscape of social media to create a buzz. To be a topic of conversation is the perfect cost-effective way of marketing a brand when the budget doesn't allow buying TV spots and print ads.”

It’s a sentiment that Julius Dunn, Education Manager of The One Club, echoes: “All the finalists had really strong concepts this year, but there were two things that set the teams from Sweden apart from the competition. All of their presentations were both visually appealing and slick with the strategic use of high-definition video and Flash, but it was their thorough understanding of the client that allowed them to build campaigns using social networking and viral marketing in a realistic way.”

Also awarded that night was Jake Dubs from the VCU Brand Center, who was the recipient of the Patrick Kelly Award. The winner is chosen based on his or her portfolio and recommendation letters from instructors and is sponsored by Euro RSCG and The One Club.

Of course the awards and accolades are always great to receive, but the greatest factor of the Education Festival was undoubtedly the amount of creative energy and enthusiasm all of the students brought with them. The drive and hunger for success was almost palpable all week.

“I have great admiration for the amazing work that was demonstrated at the festival,” says Sungkwon Ha, a recent graduate of the School of Visual Art in New York City whose print campaign (“Handmade Ads”), which he produced with his colleagues, was honored with a Merit Award. “At the One Show festival, I saw all these people working together, collaborating to produce great ideas. It was fantastic. To be able to produce an idea as a whole concept with another in a process that resolves all obstacles that come their way— production companies, budgets, endless meetings, etc—it’s truly remarkable what teams of creative people can do with a common goal.”

But the real lesson learned was that working hard in school can literally pay off—shortly after their big wins, two of the students from Berghs were offered full-time jobs at agencies.

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