“If you had a moratorium on awards for ten years, if you said there will be no awards for the next ten years, and said that after those ten years there will be awards for the most new and original things that had emerged, then you might find that within those years all the new ways of expressing ourselves will just come out, because there would no longer be any compulsion to impress juries who are steeped in the old, conventional ways.” – Indra Sinha
Indra's got a point here. And it would be a great experiment. If only you could get every creative in the industry to comply.
But consider the position you're in. As students, you don't really have award shows to enter. Sure, you've got CMYK, the One Show college competition, and a few regional things. But your real show is going to be your book. That's your chance to do some incredible work. If a creative director opens it to find a bunch of mimicked ads, it won't make much of an impression.
I also think it's incredibly important for you to study the annuals. Especially early in your career. I think studying the annuals is the best way for you to really understand what makes great advertising.
So here's the dilemma: You need to read the annuals to be familiar with what really great advertising is. You also don't want to simply copy the kind of great advertising that's in the annuals. How do you reconcile the two?