It’s that time of year again: Young Spikes is back to keep vietnam’s young creatives on their toes. By Khoi Pham. Photos courtesy of Vietnam Young Spikes.

Pham Thi Dieu Anh, the managing director of AiiM, has heard it all: advertising in Vietnam is still a young and growing industry, our local agencies are only starting to catch up with current trends in regional advertising and Vietnam’s young professionals have a lot to learn from their international colleagues. A veteran of the advertising industry herself, Dieu Anh was fully aware of Vietnam’s shortcomings when she decided to bring Spikes Asia to the country in 2014.

A collaborative effort between Lions Festival and Haymarket, Spikes Asia is the most prestigious festival of creativity in the Asia-Pacific region. Every September, teams of creative professionals flock to Singapore to celebrate all aspects of the advertising industry by participating in days of seminars, workshops and other festivities, including the Young Spikes Competition.

Like its regional counterpart, Vietnam Young Spikes is a huge opportunity for young creatives to showcase their talents by devising a communication plan in response to a creative brief, which is based on a real-life scenario. Hopeful applicants form teams of two will be considered for a spot in the competition. The teams have to come up with a creative idea in 48 hours and present it to a panel of judges to determine who will take the crown and get to represent Vietnam in the regional Young Spikes competition.

The judges, all made up of top creative directors from notable ad agencies in Vietnam, couldn’t be happier about Young Spikes’ arrival in Vietnam.

“We all share the same view of the general picture of the industry, so they all are more than willing to jump on the bandwagon,” Dieu Anh says. “Each of the judges, as a director in their own agency, has the same ambition of creating a learning hub that would help elevate the creativeness in Vietnam’s advertising industry.”

“Not until they met up last year during the competition did they realize that this is a shared aspiration,” she adds.

The shortage of highly-trained employees aside, it seems the current working creatives also encounter difficulties of their own.

“Because it was the first year, we decided to stick to the traditional format, which requires participants to have at least three previous works in their portfolio to be shortlisted,” she explains.

At first, Dieu Anh hoped that there would be about 100 teams from some 25 international ad agencies in town, with four teams formed per agency. In the end, only 38 applications were submitted.

“The number of applicants was not as many as we expected but it also showed a huge effort of these young, talented people and their passion to join the competition,” she says. “This is a promising sign for us to make this year’s competition much bigger in scale and better in creative quality.”

Despite the humble start, Vietnam Young Spikes 2014 went on to achieve success in creating an opportunity for professionals in the field to share their experience, as well as drawing attention to some common issues in the industry.

Gaining necessary momentum from last year’s success, the team behind this year’s Young Spikes has made major changes regarding both the format and execution of the competition in hopes of reaching out to even more young Vietnamese with an interest in advertising.

Firstly, in addition to the existing integrated competition category, this year’s contestants can choose to compete in the new digital category, should they feel digital communication is more their forte. Secondly, university students who are interested in advertising can now apply for a spot in the competition, as a new contestant group has been created just for them.

Last but not least, taking into consideration both the young age of the advertising industry in Vietnam and the difficulty which last year’s applicants faced in compiling a three-piece portfolio, the Portfolio Screening Round has been eliminated for this year’s competition. This opens the door to all advertising professionals and students to send in their application.

“The competition is just a part of the big picture,” says Nguyen Truong Thien Ly, AiiM’s current deputy director. “The most important thing is the opportunities a competition like this could give them: a chance to meet very senior and experienced members of the field, a chance to meet future employers and a chance to encounter talented alumni from top agencies. The question is whether they are brave enough to take the chance and express themselves.”

In order to promote this year’s competition, the organising team has already made detailed plans to tour at least 20 universities in the city.

For Tran Phuong, Young Spikes 2015’s content team leader, who went through all the ups and downs of being a contestant last year, joining the competition is an experience he will never forget.

“We barely slept during the 48 hours of the challenge. We did eat but all we could think about was the brief while locking ourselves in the office the entire time,” he says. “We did a whole lot of thinking and generating ideas, but the truth is only during the last few hours did we finalise our plans for the presentation.”

Among the memories and lessons he took away from the few days of competition, Phuong says, the most important thing Young Spikes taught him was that sometimes pressure is good for creative professionals.

“Don’t get too comfortable, especially when you’re doing creative tasks. Enforcing a limit and exerting pressure could help you with the competition as well as with your career,” Phuong says.