Verizon Media Academy concludes with virtual pitch-off for Heart On My Sleeve campaign

Dede Stewart

Group of people on virtual pitch-off

Sydney, AUSTRALIA (June 30, 2020) -- The Verizon Media Academy has ended for another year with a virtual pitch-off for mental health charity Heart On My Sleeve to close out the 2020 brand-building educational and training program.

The  40 emerging leaders  from across the Australia and New Zealand media, advertising and marketing industry were given just one hour to respond to a brief by Mitch Wallis, Founder of Heart On My Sleeve, and Carly Williams, Senior Editor of HuffPost Australia, to encourage more people to speak out and ask for help on mental health. 

The  pitch-off was the final virtual element of this year’s Verizon Media Academy program which has been completely revamped since the call was sent out to senior leaders earlier this year to nominate up-and-coming talent  for the exclusive educational event. 

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 was moved to an online version of the program, designed to build the skills to succeed both professionally and personally in the new world of working. This  included the virtual masterclass series which was opened up to the wider industry in the spirit of inclusivity and featured online workshops on topics including resilience (with neuroscientist Shelley Laslett), building your kick-ass brand (with Maz Farrelly), leading and collaborating remotely (with Chloe Hamman), managing boundaries (with Leigh Morrison) and building mental fitness like an elite athlete (with Dr Kate Hall). 

Commenting on the 2020 Verizon Media Academy experience, Rachel Page,  National Sales Director at Verizon Media ANZ, said: “What a journey the Class of 2020 has been on. It’s been truly amazing to see the development from my vantage point as a mentor, host and judge, especially the culmination of all the  learning and hard work played out in the virtual pitch-off on Friday. Verizon Media is very proud to be contributing to rewarding, developing and building our industry’s rising talent.”

On Friday the judges -  Arnaud Calonne (Verizon Media), Carly Williams (HuffPost Australia), Chris Freel (UnLtd), Jonas Jaanimagi (IAB), Mitch Wallis (Heart On My sleeve), Paul Sigaloff (Verizon Media) and Rachel Page (Verizon Media) - heard 10 convincing pitches that covered a range of innovative ideas from  a maskless media lunch to wearing your heart on your CV, but ultimately it was team Yahoo Fantasy that took home the prize, a once-in-a-lifetime trip  to Advertising Week New York 2021.

The winning team of Brittany Auchterlonie (Mad Mex), Jarrod Macfarlane (Initiative), Karl Cheung (Zenith) and Surya Shenbagamurthy (Woolworths Group) pitched the idea of ‘my battle is my strength’ , a campaign to simplify and empower mental health conversations through the creation of a Heart On My Sleeve emoji.  Judges were unanimously sold on the idea with Mitch Wallis already working with Carly Williams to bring the idea into fruition. 

Speaking of the pitch-off experience, Wallis said:  "It was great to be a part of the Verizon Media Academy Pitch-Off and have access to the best minds in the industry to help support Heart On My Sleeve's mission of de-stigmatising mental health. I was in absolute awe watching these talented people come up with amazing ideas, and I would just like to say a huge thank you to Verizon Media, UnLtd and of course the Class of 2020 for playing such an integral part in helping our charity. I'm really looking forward to working with HuffPost to bring the winning idea to life." 

Attendee and winning team member Jarrod Macfarlane, Partnerships Manager at Initiative, added: "This years’ Verizon Media Academy has been an impressive proof point of our industry’s agility and transformation in 2020. Pitching virtually was of course a huge new challenge and I couldn’t be more proud of my team’s performance within the one-hour turnaround to create a truly meaningful piece of work. The masterclasses throughout the academy were hugely insightful and armed us with extraordinary tools to use in both our professional and personal lives. I’m thrilled to be able to extend this extracurricular learning into next year's Advertising Week in New York with some fantastic new friends."