“Looking back, we see The Shelf Awards as a catalyst for our career…we came away with an ability to sell ourselves as well as our ideas, that ultimately helped us get a job.”
The Shelf Awards are now in there 14th year. How does it feel to take part? How does it feel to win and pick up The Shelf itself? Last year’s winners, Ran Stallard and Max Maclean, give us the graduates’ view.
That’s the first memory we have of the 2013 Shelf Awards. Sprinting down gusty back streets, ruining elegantly (and painstakingly) tousled coiffes, scrambling to find the ONE thing we literally couldn’t compete without: our portfolios. Lung-emptyingly large sighs of relief. We spotted our portfolios lying outside Pret-a-Manger beneath a grubby table, looking not a little like a pair of homemade briefcase bombs. Expecting to discover the area cordoned off with a cop dressed like the Michelin man waddling towards our scamps, we quickly snatched up our books and hurried back to the venue.
Rewind two months and you’d find us, that’s Ran Stallard (girl) and Max Maclean (not girl) sitting in the School of Communication Arts being told about The Shelf Awards by our dean, Marc Lewis. We hadn’t known much about The Shelf Awards. We knew it was a platform (excuse the pun) for showcasing young creatives, we knew there was only space (figuratively and, as we later found out, literally) for each of the six teams, and we knew each school was only allowed to submit three creative couplings for judgement.
We picked our three best pieces of work, crafted them to buggery and submitted them for review. A week later, we found out that we were one of the three creative couplings Marc had chosen to submit. Our school was full of talent (still is) so we were utterly delighted (still are). A month later, we were even more delighted to hear our book had made The Shelf Awards shortlist.
Fast forward one month, and it’s the night of The Shelf Awards.
On arrival, we were lead to the presentation room, which was (give or take) the size of a large classroom with six tables against the walls. We lay out our (two, identical) portfolios, opened some Macbooks and blue-tacked A3 printouts of our work on to the wall.
After a brief chat with the competition (all of whom had great portfolios) the guest judges started to arrive and we got our first taste of what the night would be like. Very quickly we discovered that The Shelf Awards are unlike any other awards. Everyone invited (from interns at recruitment agencies to executive creative directors) has an equal vote and guests can do the rounds in whatever order and time they please. This means that you either have zero guests or you have 40. Never inbetween. And everyone, whether they’ve stood at your stand attentively for 20 minutes or just arrived, needs to be engaged and informed and charmed. This is because they’re all carrying scorecards which they’ll use to rate your work from 1-5. In the words of David Ogilvy: ‘We sell, or else.’
The experience is like being a Maitre D’ at a restaurant which only serves advertising (and luke-warm bottles of Becks). Guests must be welcomed warmly, guided through the ‘menu’, interacted with, listened to, the list goes on… and all in the hope you’ll get a tip! Campaign quickly blurred into campaign, guest into guest, and before we knew it… we were done. And completely exhausted. After the votes had been gathered and counted, we gathered round the front to hear the news…
Third place was announced. ‘Beard and Bender’ – two lovely and aptly named chaps (one has facial hair, the other is gay) from Bucks Ad School. Second place was called, going to our fellow SCA students, the extremely talented Tom and Tom. It was now all or nothing for us and being surrounded by the talent we were we prepared ourselves for the latter.
But then, Gary’s dulcet tones rumbled… ‘and the winner of The Shelf Awards 2013, is… Ran & Max!’
We fucking lost it. There’s no other way to put it. British reserve worn down by four hours of adrenalin fuelled competition, we bounced like lottery winners. Never has such a cheap shelf been valued so highly. After we’d calmed down a bit, we found out that the competition was extremely close – there had barely been a few points between 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Which just goes to show that you really have to work for the win on the night, it’s not enough to just have good work.
Fast forward nearly a year, and you’ll find us almost six months into our first job at Ogilvy & Mather, which we love. Beard & Bender have been on placement at Grey London, and LBi, whilst Tom & Tom have been snapped up by Droga 5 London, so it’s fair to say they’ve done alright for themselves too!
Looking back, we see The Shelf Awards as a catalyst for our career (look out, Kleenex moment coming up). Yes, we got an award and a confidence boost which helped with crits, but we also came away with new friends and an ability to sell ourselves as well as our ideas, that ultimately helped us get a job.
We owe a lot of thanks to Gary Sharpen and The Shelf Awards and wish all this year’s nominees the very best of luck.
Feel free to follow us @ranandmax if you fancy a chat, or we’ll see you on the night.
Cheers again Gaz.”
Find out more about The Shelf Awards