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Tom Lawrence from NSW has been awarded Australia's Top Student at the 2017 AWARD School National Announcement, which was held at The Dolphin Hotel in Sydney on Monday night (7 August).

In an AWARD School-first, Tom wins a once in a lifetime trip to NYC where he will meet David Droga and compare their winning portfolios from AWARD School 1987 and 2017. Remarkably, this makes Tom the only person in the last 30 years (outside Droga’s family) to see the portfolio that landed Droga his big break at OMON.

To determine the national winner, AWARD appointed a ‘Super Jury’ comprising 10 leading creatives from around the world, who reviewed the state winner’s portfolios in an independent and blind-judging round.


AWARD School Super Jury

  • Sarah Barclay, Global ECD, JWT New York (AWARD School Winner 1984)
  • Margaret Johnson, CCO, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners San Francisco
  • Linda Knight, ECD, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles (AWARD School 1992)
  • Nick Law, Vice Chairman & Global CCO, R/GA New York
  • James McGrath, Creative Chairman, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne
  • Ben Priest, Founder & Group CCO, adam&eveDDB London
  • Eric Quennoy, ECD, Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
  • Ted Royer, CCO, Droga5 New York
  • Kate Stanners, Chairwoman & Global CCO, Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Jureeporn Thaidumrong, Chairwoman/CCO, Grey Bangkok

View Super Jury bios here


Top Students by State

QLD Jackie Elliott
NSW Tom Lawrence (National Winner)
VIC Jesse Young
SA Layla Firth
WA Luke Williams

View Student Portfolios here

A total of 187 students across five states, including NSW, QLD, VIC, SA and WA graduated from AWARD School in 2017. Each student received 10 briefs, ranging from experiential and outdoor, to game changer and integrated campaigns, resulting in close to 2,000 brief submissions nationally.

AWARD Chair and national chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Australia, Mike Spirkovski said: "With a long and proud history of nurturing and launching the careers of our industry’s most recognisable pioneers, including David Droga, AWARD School remains the most relevant and highly regarded course in Australasia. As we celebrate the 2017 graduates tonight, we also reflect on the successes of the creatives and art directors who have walked in their shoes over the last three decades.”

The 2017 graduates follow in the footsteps of many of today’s creative leaders, including past students: Craig Davis, ex-Chairman of AWARD and Co-Chairman & Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Mojo; David Droga, Founder and Creative Chairman at Droga5; Sarah Barclay, Global ECD at JWT New York; Linda Knight, ECD at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles; Tom Premetico, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Johannes Leonardo; and Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at JWT New York.

Commenting on Tom’s winning portfolio, Mike said: “Creating engaging, effective ideas in a simple scamp is difficult for even the most experienced creative...Kudos to this creative for stripping it all back to what I believe is the reason we are all here in this business; to make great ideas."

Among the Super Jury comments, one judge said that the winning student had, “Simple ideas that make you smile or made me feel slightly embarrassed that my student book wasn’t this good.”

While another judge said, “Strong conceptual thinking. Sense of humor and wit. Clever, surprising solutions.”

Reflecting on his course experience, Tom said: “AWARD school was without a doubt the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done. I am so humbled to have won, and fear for my friends and family who will now have to put up with a lot more of "what do you think of this idea".

Tom also thanked NSW School Heads Niccola Phillips (M&C Saatchi) and Brendan Willenberg (Clemenger BBDO) and his lecturers and tutors for their commitment, time and support throughout the 12 week intensive course. He was tutored by Jerome Gaslain, Oskar Westerdal and Rene Schultz from BWM Dentsu; and Karen Ferry and Sarah Parris from Leo Burnett.

View a full list of 2017 AWARD School Tutors

The trip to NYC to meet David Droga has been sponsored by The Sweet Shop and Clerehan Pty. Ltd. Esther Clerehan, who has been instrumental in developing the idea, proposed the NYC prize after David mentioned to her in a conversation last year in New York that he still had his AWARD School book from all those years ago. Former AWARD Chair Wilf Sweetland and The Sweet Shop jumped at the chance to co-sponsor and together Esther and Wilf developed the Super Jury and brought the national prize concept to life.

All interstate winners were flown to Sydney for the national announcement on Monday August 7, with the NYC trip scheduled for the week of September 25.