EACA Summer School 2016

In May of this year, I was made aware of the European Association of Communication Agencies Summer School being held by the European Institute for Commercial Communications Education in Berlin in July. As I am relatively new to this industry, just under two years and counting, I knew this was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. I did some research on the previous Summer Schools and loved the diversity the advanced course had to offer. It’s not often that you are presented with the chance to work with people and experts from different disciplines of the advertising and comms industry, let alone with people from all over Europe.

To be one of 40 that would be lucky enough to be chosen to attend I had to write a letter expressing my interest; what I think I would get from the School and more importantly, what I would bring to the table. Writing a letter ‘bigging’ yourself up is quite strange, it’s not a part of our Irish nature, for most of us anyway, to brag or gloat about our achievements or abilities. To be quite honest, I found it difficult – how was I to know what would make me stand out, make me deserving of this opportunity? I think the fact that I took the path less travelled might have sparked some interest. After taking the scenic route to complete my Undergraduate degree in politics and information studies from UCD I worked in event management.  I worked predominantly with the IRFU along with other international brands. After a year as an event manager I knew that helping brands build relationships with the public is the area in which I wanted to build my career. Wanting to broaden my knowledge beyond events I decided to take the plunge and head back to college.  I completed my Masters in Marketing from DIT with a first class honours in 2014. I lay all my cards on the table in my letter to the EACA, including the ups and downs that led to me working in MEC as a media planner and buyer and luckily for me, they decided I was a good fit.

It was about six weeks before the Summer School when I found out that I was chosen to attend. It was pushed to the back of my mind for a while, but as per usual, time flies and before I knew it, it was time to fly to Berlin. I knew it was going to be an intense week, we had six hours of lectures a day. We would be covering a variety of topics from behavioural economics to breaking the rules of creativity with trainers who have won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix and are best in class at what they do. However, the part of the week that I was most looking forward to was the pitch.

On the first day, after our introduction to the course with an insightfully bizarre morning with Dietmar Dahmen, we were divided into 8 groups. The groups we would be pitching with for the Deutsche Telekom pan European business. We were briefed by DDB, Deutsche Telekom’s agency, and it was game on from there – everyone’s competitive streak came out. The lectures over the course of the week were designed to help us identify insights, generate ideas and execute an effective and impactful media plan and activation. The aim was to reach out to and start a conversation with the millennials of Europe, Deutsche Telekom’s target audience.

As previously mentioned, the School was attended by 40 young professionals from across Europe, but my group in particular had a great mix. We had people from a variety of different countries (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, UK and Ireland) and from various different backgrounds from; TV production, event planning, training consultancy and media planning. Given the diversity of our professional backgrounds it was sometimes difficult for us to get on the same page, as we all had different ways of working and processes that we were used to. There were times where we were going around in circles and were losing sight of the main objectives laid out by Deutsche Telekom. When we felt like we had come to a road block, and there were a few, we decided to down tools and explore Berlin. This was great as it gave us the opportunity to step back and take a breather and just get to know each other on a more personal level. Coincidentally, these breaks also happened to coincide with whatever Euros match was on that night. By the end of the week we had all broadened our minds and had an understanding for how we all worked as individuals. This helped us come together as a team and take advantage of and utilise our different strengths. There were many late nights in the Design Akadamie, followed by even later dinners and some football, of course.

The 8 groups pitched on the Friday afternoon to Deutsche Telekom, DDB, the EACA trainers and our peers. Seeing the ideas and execution of the other groups was fascinating. It’s not often that you are in a position to watch the competition when you are pitching to a client. There were a few teams that had similar ideas, but every group had their own identifying and unique stamp that separated them from everyone else.

I have to admit, I was somewhat nervous heading off to Berlin on my ‘own’, but the moment I walked in on the first day, I was put at ease. Not only were we all in the same boat, it was obvious that we all were there for the same reasons – we love what we do, we are eager to learn and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t jump at a chance for a week in Berlin? It was such a fantastic week and would advise any new IAPI members to apply for the 2017 Summer School.

Ali McDonnell

Ali McDonnell is an Account Manager with MEC in Dublin.

IAPI is the Irish member of the EACA and is the Irish rep for the Summer School.

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