I look back and see that I am writing to over a thousand of you now, whereas my first end-of-year email in 2010 was sent to just 70 mentors. I must begin this message by telling you how grateful I am to work in an industry that is so generous with its time and knowledge. There is something very special about passing crafts down to future generations, and I am very proud to play a role in seeing this tradition continue in our trade.
Before I share some of our plans for 2017, I thought you might like to know some of our highlights from 2016.
- We awarded ten scholarships & two London Living bursaries across our new intake, taking us to over 50 scholarships awarded since 2010.
- We finished the year as the world’s top ranked portfolio school in Cream again, making us top school four years in a row.
- Our alumni continue to create great work.One of my favourite pieces came from Frazer, now working at Droga5, who made this in his spare time.
This segues neatly to reflecting on 2016 – an eventful year whatever your politics. I recognise so many of the symptoms Toffler described in Future Shock when he wrote his great book fifty years ago. We seem bamboozled by choice, seeking simplicity, hypnotised by technology, disconnected from establishment.
I have noticed a sharp change in the behaviours of graduates leaving university over the past five years, and whenever I speak to educators, employers or government,there seems to be a general acceptance that the speed of change is getting faster.
In September 2016, for the new intake, I introduced a number of adjustments into the school. Mobile phones, laptops and tablets have been banned whenever we are in class. We take notes by hand and then upload to online notebooks. We practice gratitude and we meditate three times a day.
This has been my favourite term running SCA as dean. It is my sixteenth term.
It might be my favourite because the recent upgrade of mindfulness techniques has bonded us tighter as a unit. Or it might be that I am enjoying having the great Alexandra Taylor on our faculty. It might be down to the fact that the new intake is already getting great feedback on live briefs, from METRO and WaterAid. Or that, free from distractions, our students are happier and more motivated, already understanding that every brief is an opportunity to make famous work.
So 2016 has taught me how important it is to embrace every day with purpose, and to always be ready for great change.
Our students have always been known for having ideas with societal and financial value in their portfolios. We pride ourselves on being a problem/solution school, led by consumer insight. We are going to double down on this in 2017.
I sense that consumers are just the same as graduates leaving university, suffering from Future Shock with the same symptoms. They want to feel listened to, they want their lives made a little bit easier, they want to belong more than they want things to belong to them.
And it is no surprise that marketeers also suffer from Future Shock.
We can help by producing talented graduates who are as comfortable sketching out disruptive, viable innovation for brands, as they are creating or crafting campaigns,one-offs and topical ads. Always with purpose.
In 2016 the students raised £43,000 on Indiegogo for the school’s first product, ICE. We describe it as Neighbourhood Watch for the mobile generation, and we have some very exciting news to share about ICE in 2017. An ambition is that some of our students will be inspired to run their own crowdfunding for their own ideas in 2017.
The school’s ecosystem is built on a model of reciprocity, in which agencies should get anROI for supporting learning. Purpose is in our DNA, but we recognised that our model needed tweaking a bit. We spent the second half of 2016 thinking about how to make sure our network of agencies get even more value from supporting the school in 2017. Clare, Honor and I have shared some ideas at recent events and meetings.
- Students now all sign contracts,agreeing to go on placements to agencies that support the school for six months before going on placement anywhere else. This became essential as our students have become headhunted by agencies that don’t contribute financially or with mentoring.
- The school now offers free booster courses for alumni network, and discounted training courses for sponsor agencies. We have also announced a partnership with Creative Equals to help bring returnships to the industry.
- I am meeting the ECDs of all our sponsors, to get feedback on how we can do even better, and to invite them help me establish a quorum for awarding scholarships with greater transparency.
- We have developed better processes for working on live briefs. This is too dull to describe in an end-of-year newsletter, but we have seen it make a huge difference.
Looking back sixteen short terms, we have come a long way together. I am excited to be going into 2017 with you by my side, and I want to thank you for helping our students find purpose in their vocational and personal lives.
Wishing you a wonderful, relaxing end to 2016 and all the very best for 2017,