The Best Advertising Competitions for Students

Advertising competitions for students are a great way of getting noticed and a sure-fire path to landing a top-notch internship or an outright job offer in a top creative department. Especially if you manage to win. But even if you don’t, you’re taking concrete steps to build your portfolio and become a better creative.

Creative Directors and hiring managers pay attention to results in student ad competitions. 100%. They definitely have an outsized influence on hiring decisions.

Many portfolio schools and graduate programs take some of these briefs and solve them as part of their coursework. They often pay the entry fees for the best pieces of work as well. Many competitions are available for junior creatives that are just starting out in their career too.

Many of these competitions are global. So there are plenty of opportunities. Get to it.

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AKQA Future Lions

Global agency AKQA has set up one of the most prestigious advertising competitions for students with their Future Lions initiative. There is no entry fee.

Entrants are typically already at portfolio school / grad school.

The competition is global. You’ll be competing against the biggest and best ideas from incredibly esteemed advertising programs such as the Berghs School of Communication in Sweden, Nanyang University in Singapore and Brother in Madrid. This advertising competition typically receives upwards of 2,000 entries each year.

Five winning teams are granted full access to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. They will also present their winning campaigns on stage. Now in its eleventh year, this incubator for talent has become one of the most highly anticipated seminars at Cannes. Although teams of up to five students are allowed, only two will be given the opportunity to present at the festival. All team members will be credited with the win, however.

99% of winners have gone on to work for some of the world’s top advertising and design agencies around the world.

Keep visiting their site to see when the brief gets posted. 

Once it does, get to it. They say you can present your ideas any way you would like to, but the winners always seem to have created a slick case study video to give their ideas the best chance. Remember – execution has never been as important as it is in the modern advertising industry as it is today.

D&AD New Blood Awards

One of the best advertising competitions for students is the D&AD New Blood Awards. It’s easily the equal of Future Lions in prestige. Real briefs, set by real clients, judged by the industry’s top creatives. 

At the professional level, D&AD has the reputation of being the best organised of all the Award Shows, and their New Blood Awards are no different. They support students through the process better than anyone, including a free online course that will help you work through the brief.

As long as you have less than a year’s experience in a creative department, you are eligible for entry. Entry is not free, but reasonable at just 20 pounds or so. If that’s still onerous, under certain circumstances D&AD will waive the entry fee.

The brief for the competition typically drops sometime in October

Winners are announced in May. Winners will be invited to the D&AD ceremony to receive their pencils and have an opportunity to meet the global advertising industry at the event.

Furthermore, they also run the New Blood Festival, aimed at supporting graduates as they emerge from study and make tentative steps into the professional creative industries. Three days of talks and insights along with in-person events in a number of cities, provided inspiration and practical tools. They also feature collated graduate shows and portfolio showcases.

D&AD also run Masterclasses and short courses that are brilliant for students of creative advertising. Seriously, it is top of class. Make sure you get involved and take advantage of as many of their initiatives as you can. Even if you aren’t based in the UK.

D&AD New Blood Portfolio Awards

The Portfolio competition recognises excellent portfolio websites across a number of disciplines including Advertising, Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, Digital and Commercial Photography.

Select winners will be eligible for a place on The New Blood Academy, a two week creative bootcamp with WPP agencies. They accept entries from all over the world, so if you have a portfolio website with great thinking executed beautifully, it is a no-brainer.

Look at last years winners here, make your folio just as compelling, and enter. It’s free. There is no downside to getting involved, and so much upside.

The Young Ones

This advertising competition for students is presented by the One Club for Creativity in the USA. There are several different competitions held under the one umbrella.

Firstly, there is the Young Ones Brief competition, which tasks students with creating work for different types of clients for the chance to earn a One Show Pencil. It’s an excellent credential for anyone looking at getting into a top creative department. Each entry costs about $55, but many portfolio schools and graduate programs offer to reimburse that expense.

Next, the Young Ones ADC (Art Directors Club) competition offers students the chance to compete in the same disciplines and categories as the ADC Annual Awards.

Finally, the Young Ones Portfolio advertising competition for students is an opportunity to showcase examples from your portfolio in a variety of creative disciplines.

To qualify for entry, national and international college students must be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate or graduate college program, or another program approved by The One Club’s Education Department. Winners are awarded during the Young Ones Education Festival, held each May in New York City.

Young Shits

I hope you’ve read down this far. I love this competition.

Young Shits is a series of monthly advertising competitions for students set up by a crew of New York Creatives. The prize is simply a sit-down or phone conference with the judge, who is always a senior creative or creative director. If you’re a student or recent grad, part-time or full-time, portfolio school, college or university, you’re eligible. Doesn’t matter how old you are, either.

Advertising is a tightly-knit community.

Making contacts is essential no matter how experienced you are. If you win Young Shits you make a contact who’s seriously considering recommending you to their agency. As they say on their website, Trophies are nice, but a job is better.

And even if you don’t win, the discipline of taking on a new brief every month is brilliant for your portfolio.

Free to enter, and available to anyone all over the globe.

On the 1st of each month at 11:59 PM New York time, they reveal a new brief and the results of the last judge. You can enter as many solutions to the brief you want before the deadline. Unless the brief asks for a specific medium, you can present your idea to the judge in whatever way you see fit.

To make sure that the judge isn’t swayed by anything beside the work, every entry is anonymised before the judge sees it. The judge sees the work ONLY, without your name or background info that could subconsciously swing their decision.

The ‘World’s Greatest Internship’

This is a jet-setting, culture absorbing PAID internship. It isn’t a competition based on a brief. The process is more like a scholarship application. The more they know about you, your craft, and your real world experience, the better your chances.

On their website, they say they’re after creatives that embody the modern creative. Someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit and doesn’t wait to be told what to do. Each year, three budding creatives are given the opportunity to intern.

A dynamic and unique work-learning program, The World’s Greatest Internship provides budding writers and art directors the opportunity to work with top creative agencies in a range of international locations. Over six months, the internship allows hybrid creatives to innovate and gain hands-on industry experience. 6 months. 2 months with each location company. Last intake, the creatives went to top agencies in Berlin, Chicago and San Francisco.

This advertising competition for students is conceived by Butchershop Creative in San Francisco. The program is designed to foster cross-cultural collaboration and to change the way the creative industry operates.

The Instagram for the World’s Greatest Internship is probably the best place to get a feel for what they do.

New York Festivals Student Awards

Another fun ad contest. The award ceremony is great and the trophy, designed by Stefan Sagmeister, are pretty cool. You can submit anything. No brief, just submit the cool stuff you’ve worked on lately. 

A student is defined as someone who is enrolled (full or part-time) in a recognized film school program or an accredited college or university. The work submitted by a student must have been produced during their enrollment, and within the period of August 1, 2020 – February 16, 2022.

Entry fees can be very expensive ($150 and up) but some portfolio schools / graduate programs have a policy of reimbursing entry fees, so check that out.

advertising competitions for students new york festivals sagmeister

Young Spikes Competition

This is more for junior creatives than students, but it is worth keeping an eye on. It is a regional version of the ‘Young Cannes Competition’, but for the Asian region. Each eligible country can send one team to compete during the Spikes festival. The method of selecting teams varies from country to country. Some may conduct a pre-competition. Others will base the selection on a submitted portfolio.

Teams of two must create an integrated campaign in response to a brief set by a client who is kept confidential until the competition briefing day. At least three media channels must be used, explaining how the different media channels answer the brief in a creative way.

A panel of expert judges will review each entry and select the winners, who will be awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The Gold winning team will also receive delegate passes to the next Spikes Asia Festival and an exclusive winners interview with Campaign Asia.

Ad Stars Korea

This is unique. There is a cash prize for the winning idea.

Young Stars AD Competition is a program that submits fresh ideas based on the theme of the contest in which university students from all over the world participate. Submitted works will be judged fairly by global in-service advertising experts.

This advertising competition for students is likely to be completely off your radar. But it’s worth keeping an eye on. If you have some work you’re particularly proud of, it could be worth a roll of the dice.

National Advertising Challenge (Canada)

If you’re enrolled in an advertising, design or marketing course at any Canadian college or university, you are eligible to compete in these advertising competitions for creatives. The gold winner in each round of the competition receive a two month paid internship at one of Toronto’s premier agencies.

The competition runs twice a year, in Spring and Fall as well.

Each category will be judged by a carefully selected group of leaders in the advertising field. They will make their judgements based on the originality and innovation of the idea, its impact, and its contribution to the overall ambition of the organization.

Thankfully, this initiative has a low-bar for entry. You aren’t expected to create a slick case study video. Rather, a simple board with fewer than 200 words on is all you are judged on. It is also free to enter.

American Advertising Federation: National Student Advertising Competition

This is only for students enrolled in one of the AAF’s college chapters as undergraduates, and usually forms part of their coursework. It is a valuable learning experience, but it is likely to be more valuable for budding account managers and strategists.

The Ad School Buddy

To make it as a professional ad creative, your choice of school is key. This is the most comprehensive guide to creative education in North America by far.

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