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New Talent

New Talent: Tom Lawrence

AWARD School national winner on his upcoming trip to meet David Droga and his Proudly Pokies Free campaign

New Talent: Tom Lawrence

Tom Lawrence from Sydney was recently crowned the national winner of Australia’s AWARD School, three decades after David Droga’s own career launched the same way. Droga was a teenager when he was crowned the top student in 1987 and he still has his student portfolio, which was hidden away in a trunk for 30 years - Tom has won a meeting with the man himself in New York to compare their winning student books.  

Recently, Tom’s been working with his sister on a campaign to stamp out slot machines (or ‘pokies’ as they’re known in Australia) and freaking his housemates out with his abundance of ideas for the AWARD School. Over the past few years, Tom has been working as a freelance copywriter, director and producer – very much an entrepreneurial and multi-talented creative.

LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Tom to find out what his plans are for the future, and what he’ll be chatting to Droga about. 

LBB> Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what kind of kid were you?

Tom Lawrence> That’s a hard one to answer, because I don’t think I have finished growing up yet. I was born in Adelaide, but I’ve been in Sydney since I can remember. At school I was a bit naughty, but I felt at least my transgressions were creative. At the end of year six, they handed all of the lost property school uniform items over to anyone who wanted to take them. I decided to take all of it and scoot down to the uniform shop who I knew bought second hand uniforms. “I have a lot of brothers” didn’t go down as well as I had planned. Anyway, I guess that gives you an idea of what kind of kid I was. 

LBB> You and your sister launched the Proudly Pokies Free campaign last year, aimed at highlighting the problems caused by slot machines and encouraging pubs and bars not to install them. Can you tell us a bit about that project? 

TL> So, a couple of years ago our dad made a documentary called ‘Ka-ching! Pokie Nation’, which explores Australia’s pokies problem. We then started our campaign as a way to continue the conversation and talk to Australians, especially young Australians, about the impact the pokies have on our culture and communities. Australia has 20 per cent of the world’s pokies, on which we lose about AUD12 billion every year. It’s an industry that our people, pubs and government are highly addicted to. There is fantastic work being done by groups pushing hard for legislative change, but we purely focus on a positive approach through early intervention education and a celebration of pokies-free venues.

LBB> You were recently crowned Top Student at NSW AWARD School graduation night. How was the experience, and what was it like being tutored by the folks at BWM Dentsu and Leo Burnett?

TL> I would be lying if I told you that it wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done. But it was also the most rewarding. By the final weeks, I’d freaked out my housemates with my 12 weeks of ideas stuck all over the walls of our living room. It was sort of like a scene from ‘A Beautiful Mind’, but instead of a genius figuring out high level math, there was me deciding whether using a T-REX in a Hilux ad was a good idea or not. It was not. It was definitely not. The tutors at BWM and Leo Burnett were incredible. I was genuinely surprised at the effort that they put in and their commitment to make us less shit. I specifically remember Karen Ferry from Leo’s writing a 10-paragraph response of advice when she was on dodgy Wi-Fi, trying to have time off on a tiny island in Croatia. Legend. Being able to interact with people already in the industry who are commitment to making us better, absolutely made the course for me. 

LBB> You’ll be heading to New York City to meet with David Droga at the end of this month. Any burning questions/insights you’re hoping to glean from the trip?

TL> I am obviously stoked to be heading to NYC and so grateful to Esther Clerehan and The Sweetshop for sponsoring such a well thought out prize. Through their kind introductions, I’ll be meeting some industry legends during my time there. And apart from finding out where to get the best slice of pizza, I am just keen to learn as much as I can. I don’t have a list of questions written down for David yet, maybe someone reading this can send me some? 

LBB> What inspires you and how do you keep up with new trends, technologies and opportunities?

TL> I am inspired by an idea that can cut through. We see tens of thousands of ads a day and how many do we remember? I’m excited by new technology and innovation, but mostly inspired by any idea in any form that is not only creatively refreshing, but strategically excellent and achieves what it needs to achieve. It could be a sculpture, a bumper sticker, coaster TVC, whatever. Just so long as it makes me feel something and does its job. I have a love of story-telling, so I follow lots of documentary blogs and trawl through the Cannes Lions winners and other ad sites to see what the world is up to. 


LBB> Which projects that you’ve been involved in are you most proud of and why?

TL> It would have to the pokies campaign. It has been a fantastic opportunity to create something of our own and be involved at every level. I think it has been a really good exercise in strategy, which I hope will only improve my creative skills. Other than that, I made a short doco for the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre down in Melbourne and had lots of fun working with Greenpeace on some content last year. A couple of years ago now, a mate and I spent about three weeks in Botswana creating content for HERO condoms. That was a taxing shoot, but a really satisfying one all the same. I guess every project I have worked on has been rewarding in its own way, I’m just excited to start on some new ones. 

LBB> Outside of work, what do you like to get up to?

TL> Before deciding to move into advertising I was a freelance producer and videographer and loved to make documentaries. I still shoot video and have recently become obsessed with shooting film photography. I have always had an interest in film and I probably spend a little too much time watching them. I could argue that I majored in film studies at university so my excessive consumption is purely academic. But that doesn’t really fly for Transformers 48 or Baywatch remakes. Other than film and photography, I love to have a bit of a strum on the gee-tar, cook, travel and work on the campaign. 

LBB> What are your aims for 2017?

TL> Well, first and foremost to get a job in the industry. That is probably a good place to start. And once I am in, I hope to do everything I can to create ideas that people love.  I also hope to take our Proudly Pokies Free campaign to the next level and start having greater impact nationally. 

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