In this monthly column with NGEN, the MFA’s training program for media professionals with less than five years of experience, Ben Breden and Olivia Coxon, communications designer and senior partnerships exec at Initiative, respectively, track their success in bringing to life their NGEN Award entry with the help of 19 media partners and $1.3 million in donated media.
Getting ideas out of your head and into the world is an exciting prospect. But for junior media agency professionals, the day-to-day job has more to do with the functional part of advertising: spec sheets, media plans and contracts. Participating in youth competitions can provide the opportunity to think creatively, but they are typically a theoretical exercise.
That’s why it was so exciting when we got the incredible opportunity to bring our NGEN Award ideas to life.
The MFA NGEN Award stands out from other industry competitions for its focus on the craft of media, which tends to make the entries feel more realistic and buyable. For those unaware, the NGEN Award is an annual competition for media professionals with less than five years of experience.
It requires a creative media solution to a charity brief, in the form of a 10-slide media response deck. It is one of the few opportunities junior media professionals get to flex their creative muscles and think strategically.
In 2022, the NGEN Award brief was for the youth mental health charity batyr, and its “Splash the Stigma” fundraising campaign. This annual fundraiser is a swimming challenge that takes place throughout February, asking participants to swim any distance throughout the month while raising money from their personal network.
After reading the brief, we went through the usual creative process of researching, procrastinating and binge-eating sour worms. Eventually, we came up with the strategy to use an existing media asset, but one we believed was under-leveraged: Splash the Stigma Budgy Smugglers.
These colourful Budgys had historically been given out as an incentive for participants who raised more than $250, but they only came into play once the fundraising was mostly over.
Our idea was to kick off the month of “Splash the Stigma” fundraising by asking participants to proudly wear their Budgys to work over the top of their clothes — creating a slightly surreal moment that would spark workplace conversations about batyr’s fundraiser and youth mental health. Our entry said that mental health heroes “wear their budgys on the outside”. To us it felt fun, simple and the right amount of cheeky.
At the 2022 MFA Awards night, it was announced that we had won the NGEN competition. We were ecstatic and we celebrated thoroughly that night, but we had no idea that our journey with batyr had only just begun…
Soon after the MFA Awards, batyr and UnLtd asked us to help them with the 2024 “Splash the Stigma campaign. We were stoked! It was a chance to meaningfully support the worthy cause of youth mental health, while also bringing our ideas to life in the real world.
Fumbling our way through the process, we were exposed to a far broader experience than our usual day-to-day. We worked on everything from strategy, to planning, to implementation and more. Managing the media process end-to-end gave us great insight into how agencies and clients work together. Clarity in our communication with the clients, the media vendors and each other became really important.
We also became adept at negotiating pro bono media space from key media partners. With little-to-no media budget, the success of the campaign largely relied upon the generosity of the media vendors. Thankfully, Initiative has a dedicated impact division with a tried-and-true process for working with media partners to secure pro-bono placements.
We were blown away by how enthusiastic the industry was about helping batyr. We leveraged every industry connection we had to secure over $1.3 million in donated media value across 19 media partners. It turns out that networking really is valuable! Media highlights included murals, radio personality host-reads and integrated content across TV and digital.
The passionate, talented people at batyr and UnLtd made the experience a positive one. Getting to use what we have learned in the industry for such a great cause has been a career highlight for us both.
With the campaign currently live, we will be swimming our Splash the Stigma laps at Prince Alfred pool across the road from the Initiative Sydney offices. If you would like to join us there or swim your own laps elsewhere, you can sign up or donate at https://www.splashthestigma.com.au/.
Check out the rest of the Inside NGEN series:
- Inside NGEN: Val Morgan Outdoor’s Jayde Mavrik On Finding Your Passion
- Inside NGEN: Wavemaker’s Andrew Sintras On Why You Shouldn’t Pass Up A Chance For Coffee With The Big Boss
- Inside NGEN: Nine’s Jenna du Preez On Why You Should Invest In Your Weak Ties
- Inside NGEN: ARN’s Gabi Price On The Mentors Who Shaped Her Career
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