24 Hours in NY and a Major Ad Award

BFA student Ian Blackley won the $1,500 Student Produced award in the Radio Mercury Awards last week. He made a whirlwind trip to New York and, well, let’s have him take over.

Last Thursday, May 31st, I went to New York City for 24 hours. I had two things planned: a meeting with AAU ADV alum Fabian Grateroles, an Art Director/Designer at Droga5, and the Radio Mercury Awards, where I was a finalist for the Student Produced category with my Tropicana spot I made in ADV 215 Short Copy for Campaigns.

My meeting with Fabian at Droga5 was great. He showed me around a few floors of the office (only 2.5 out of the 7 or so total). We talked for about an hour, and he gave me some insights and useful tips for when it came time to start looking for a job. He

said (paraphrasing) challenge yourself with what may be boring clients or mediums, don’t always create spec work for the cool brands, sometimes you’ll be working on the not-so-glamorous brands or even B2B clients.

Right after Droga5, I hoped on the train to The Cutting Room where the Radio Mercury Awards were being held. The Student Produced category I was nominated for had six other finalists. I checked in and got a finalist package that had my lanyard and a frameable piece of paper saying I was a finalist. I was interviewed and asked “What does radio mean to you?” and I responded with something like “Unlimited possibilities. It’s probably the most creative medium in advertising.” I could have said something different, I was running on no sleep for two days, and just two slices of cheese pizza. Servers were handing out hors-d’oeuvres and there was an open bar. I got a few ginger beers—on the rocks.

Then the show started. The Chief Judge, Sean Bryan, opened the show and announced the Student Produced winner. He gave a brief introduction and said how last year’s winner is now working at Wieden + Kennedy PDX. (I actually reached out to her prior, and asked what the show was like and what to expect.) Then the lights went dim and they played the winning audio. My heart rate was accelerating, my empty stomach was turning, and my already sweaty armpits were getting sweatier. In the darkness, the sweet sound of Jason Stephens, doing a solid Jeff Goldblum impression, emerged from the sound system, “Hi, hello, hi. I, I am a mouth…” I started laughing in disbelief and made my way near the stage, ready to go up.

Once the spot ended I went on stage to give an acceptance speech, something I’d never done before. I was full of a bunch of emotions, winning a national award while still in school was something I never really thought was possible. I didn’t write a speech so I stammered a bit but my main message was something like, “A few years ago I dropped out of college, unsure what I wanted to do with my life. Then a friend who was getting a Masters in advertising pitched me on what it was. Soon after I enrolled. I guess I made the right choice.” I then get pulled aside for a quick photo-op and get escorted to get interviewed in front of a camera. They asked me a few questions and I gave them a few answers. I don’t remember what was asked or said. I was having an out-of-body experience. I went back to my seat and enjoyed the rest of the show.

At the end of the whole event, I went and talked to a few of the other winners. A lot of people came and congratulated me, and told me that they loved my spot, which is always nice to hear. I talked to the President and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, Erica Farber, and she told me she really liked what I said onstage about dropping out then finding advertising. I then headed to Katz’s Deli to enjoy a celebratory pastrami sandwich.

Fast-forward to the airport. I was carrying the trophy in a box not wanting it to break, being that it’s mostly a glass bulb. It immediately gets pulled aside, rightfully so. I mean, the trophy does look like it could be a bomb (see nearby picture). Had a good laugh with TSA about it as he wiped it down for bomb juice. On the plane back, I passed out and woke up with a slobber-soaked shirt, and even stinkier armpits than before.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t doubt yourself, or your work. Believe in it, submit it, and let it speak for itself. The assignment for ADV 215 was to just write a script. I took that as an opportunity to go bigger. I searched for voice actors, talked with them, then worked out a deal and ended up making a national award-winning piece, all because I didn’t want to do the bare minimum in class.

Hope this inspires you to do more. I don’t think advertising is for those who just squeak by, it’s for those who stand out.

Ian Blackley



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