In 2016, a junior creative team of Droga5 - copywriter Kathryn Kvas & art director Vignesh Seshadri - launched a student ad contest called the Young Shits Awards, without the usual grade, trophy and eternal glory for about 5 minutes. By entering, you were reaching out directly to fellow senior creatives who could help figure out where you might fit in advertising. What you got was real feedback, useful connections and if all played out well, a recommendation and a job.
In 2018, this independent creative project is still going strong. And because a lot of people started asking questions like "whyyyyy do I have to be fresh out of school to enter this cool challenge???", Kat and Vig opened the contest to all ad professionals.
How does it work? Each month, on the 15th, a new Young Shits brief gets released on the internet, courtesy of a volunteer senior creative acting as Judge. Submissions are open for a month, till the next brief comes out. The winner is chosen by the judge and gets a one-on-one session with him/her, while the top 2 entries receive personalized feedback.
This month, Samyu Murali from Wunderman Austin proposed a brief on mental health and normalizing the act of seeking help; you can still enter, we've investigated and deadline extensions are not out of the question. But before anything, be sure to take a stroll through their How-to and FAQ (as in "Frequently Asked Quesadillas") sections.
Today, Kathryn is an Associate Creative Director at BBDO New York (and occasionally writes satire for The New Yorker). Meanwhile, Vignesh will reach his fourth year of art direction at Droga (and plays on his interest in photography). We asked them how their project is coming along 2 years since its initial launch and why access to individual guidance is so important for breaking through in advertising.
Versiunea in romana a interviului, aici.
[UPDATE] A previous version of the title stated that submissions to the Young Shits Awards were free. Upon notice, we edited the title accordingly. The costs are $10 USD per student and $20 to enter the Professional category.
How Young Shits came to be
So we started out as Droga5 interns and we were applying to ad contests like crazy since it helps with your visa process when you get hired. But when we started winning some of these contests we realized that it was all very cold and impersonal. Some vague sort of jury or a busy CCO millionaire would look at your work, give it a number and that was it.
There was a gap that needed to be filed in the advertising contest market. Students and professionals alike are looking for connections from real creatives at good agencies to not only help them get hired, but to also give them advice or a bit of guidance. Life is hard and it's always nice to find a human who cares.
So that's how we started our own contest that we wished existed when we were students, where judges give you personal feedback and you actually get to meet them. That way, you make a meaningful new connection in the ad industry (and since this industry is all about connections, that really means something).
We have had a ton of people tell us how much Young Shits means to them and has helped them, and we're so glad it has. We're grateful to have continued support and love from students and professionals alike. As the Instagram influencers say, we're #Blessed.
Going strong on a monthly basis ever since 2016
We were pleasantly surprised to find out we weren't the only ones who wanted to help students. We had an outpouring of love and support from creatives in the industry who wanted to be judges, and we've even had a few people with their own innovative brands tailored to help students reach out to us to collaborate. It wasn't hard to stay motivated to keep it going!
But it has it's challenges. We had a bit of a learning curve two years ago when we ran a brief in December and no one submitted (oops). So now we don't run briefs over the holiday break.
There's a good amount of upkeep every month to update the website with a new judge, brief and last month's winners, and send out emails to everyone and make sure everyone's in touch. And we're always trying to make it better, but we also have full-time jobs so even though it's our baby, it can't always be the priority.
The judges & the briefs
It works both ways, judges reach out to us and we reach out to them. The criteria is you need to work at a reputable ad agency and have a strong desire to help students. At first we started out just getting our friends to be judges, but now we get people who want to be judges from all over – it's really cool. If you want to be a judge, apply here!
We want our judges to take the reigns and come up with their own brief, because it's fun!
We had a brief about Trump becoming president (before it actually happened) and the world ended and all that was left was potatoes and that became the new global currency, so sell your potatoes. That was by Kay Kim, who used to work at Droga and now runs his own plant delivery company in NYC called Rooted. We also had a great brief from Phung Do (who's a creative at Google), about intersectional feminism.
Our briefs vary from silly, satirical and serious, and that's what we love about this contest.
The future hiring process
It's totally up to the judges to decide whether they think the student or professional is ready to be recommended for a job. They also need to make sure their portfolio is in the best possible shape, to give them the best chance of getting hired. And it's also up to the student to let the judge know whether he or she is ready to be hired. The timing has to be right.
Individual guidance when entering advertising
It's SO IMPORTANT. I cannot stress this enough. Whether or not you enter Young Shits, if you want to break into the ad industry you need to find a real live human who cares about you as a person.
Working hard and having a good portfolio is also very important, but making a real contact will get you hired. That's also why portfolio school helps a lot, too. You make connections from your teachers who are working professionals in the industry. Because humans are the ones who will recommend you for a job. It works way better than randomly cold-emailing creatives, trust me I've tried.
I think finding a mentor in any industry is helpful, though. People need guidance when they're just starting out.
Your experience with landing a job
While we were interning, our mentor at Droga was the one who helped get us hired. We worked really well with him and he gave us some good briefs, but he told us that it wasn't entirely up to him to get us a job at Droga, and that we needed to impress the entire creative department.
So we went to every ACD and above and asked them if they needed help. We worked our butts off for months, working late nights and every single weekend, but eventually it paid off. And we couldn't have done it without his guidance.
Getting Young Shits out there
I think promoting something is always important – we run monthly ads on social media to help it gain visibility. Advertising something as much as possible never hurts. :)
I think we've learned a lot from this experience. For one thing, it's helped us learn how to run and manage an actual business, which is pretty cool. And without this contest, we would've never come into contact with as many amazing students and creatives.
We hope to grow Young Shits as much as possible and hopefully we'll have more time in the future to do that. In the near future we are opening up a winners' archive page.
Do you see yourselves retiring from the ad world?
Right now we just want to keep doing what we're doing and make more cool work. As for retiring, I feel like we need to make a bit more money before we do that haha. But truthfully I don't know if we want to be in advertising forever. We are both very entrepreneurial in spirit and I will keep writing and Vig will keep taking photos, and we'll see where it leads us.