In summary

  • A team of Swinburne students have won the Advertising Capstone Challenge from a pool of 200 students 
  • This year’s brief was from Tourism Australia and aimed to encourage people to holiday in major cities 
  • The winning team will have the opportunity to participate in internships and mentorships with M&C Saatchi Australia 

Swinburne students thrived during their Advertising Capstone Challenge finals pitch to Tourism Australia and agency M&C Saatchi on Thursday 21 October.

After making it through to the finals, which featured six teams from three universities, team Nexus from Swinburne took out the top gong. Despite never having met each other in person, the judges commended the team for their chemistry.

A challenging brief

The students were tasked with encouraging families and empty nesters to desire a holiday in a major city – when everyone felt cities were a high-risk holiday choice.

‘The brief was so hard. So hard!’ says Bachelor of Design/Bachelor of Media and Communications student Tom Ayton. 

Adding to the challenge of the brief was the fact that there was already a successful campaign from Tourism Australia, Holiday Here This Year, in market. 

‘We were told there was no limit to our budget,’ adds Tom. 

It was enough to put a well-seasoned creative into a spin. 

Yet, the students felt supported, saying their teacher Tejhaswinee Pochun was a constant source of encouragement and guidance. 

Conducted in every way as though it were an agency to client pitch, students had the opportunity to take on real-life agency roles, from account planner to copywriter, as well as a chance to pitch to a global advertising agency and a well-known Australian client. 

A winning idea 

The winning idea that team Nexus presented was brilliantly simple and sparked by the insight that peer influence builds trust. Students made the most of their free access to Adobe Creative Cloud and gained insights by analysing a range of data from Roy Morgan Asteroid and Nielsen. 

‘Our teammate Charlie just said: let’s do something like ‘my mate’. Like, my mate told me about this place,’ says Bachelor of Media and Communications student Naomi Janmaat.

‘When you come back from a trip, you tell your friends “you have to go here”. That’s how we learn about these things,’ says Tom.   

Team Nexus’s campaign explored mateship, what it meant, and how mates could be made along the journey by supporting business owners who’d been impacted by lockdowns. 

The team swapped clichéd destinations like Eureka Tower for the Cat Café and focused on the inner-city experiences people don’t know about. The campaign featured a strong social strategy and a streaming component: a Netflix documentary about little-known city gems. 

Their presentation impressed. ‘The thinking was excellent and the presentations were polished. We really are looking at the next generation of digital natives,’ says Executive Creative Director of M&C Saatchi Sydney, Mandie van der Merwe. 

Creativity and practice in action

Swinburne’s involvement with the Advertising Capstone Project illustrates how symbiotic the relationship between students, Swinburne mentors and industry partners can be. 

 ‘It’s an advertising practice degree, so it’s critical that students understand the industry they’re about to go into,’ says advertising lecturer David Reid.

 ‘The program gives students a sneak peek of what they can expect in the real world. This equips them with tools to be job-ready,’ says Tejhaswinee.

‘Programs like this remind us of the value of creativity and give us all the opportunity to feed off it. Hats off to the organisers for getting this right,’ says Mandie.

For the students, the experience has been priceless. 

 ‘It was amazing for every one of our résumés, not just the people who won, but for everyone who presented,’ says Tom. 

Next steps 

The winning team will have the opportunity to participate in internships at M&C Saatchi Australia, and receive one-to-one mentoring with executives there, too. 

 ‘It will be exciting to see what comes from the mentorship,’ says Tom. 

‘This could be life-changing. This could help us in the long run,’ says Naomi. 

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