AdAge article is an insult to our trade.

This article in AdAge sets a worrying trend in the behavior of agencies in the development of talent.

There is a famous Lao Tzu quote; “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

AdAge is a thought leader and its words can create actions that become destiny.

The article that AdAge wrote lamented the death of Creative Circus, an important home for the development of talent for nearly 30 years. It spoke about there being relatively few portfolio schools left, but it didn’t ask whether they were needed, what services they provide to industry, whether they are of any value, whether they are worth saving, or how.

And if they did ask these questions, they didn’t ask the last remaining portfolio school in the UK, the School of Communication Arts.

The article suggests ways that industry can add more fuel to the fire burning portfolio schools, without questioning the wisdom of doing so.

Again, it’s worth mentioning that AdAge is a thought leader, and it’s worth reminding ourselves of that Lao Tzu quote. Your thoughts become your destiny.

I went to the SCA as a scholarship kid in 1993, where it changed my life. I could have gone to Watford (R.I.P) which was nearly as good. I helped out at a few portfolio schools in South Africa when I went there to watch Mandela get elected in 1994 and I have run SCA since 2010.  

We are the world’s most awarded ad school, by a country mile. Nearly one third of our students come from diverse backgrounds, which is part of our secret sauce. Our curriculum is written by the industry, crafted by educators and delivered by both. We are inclusive in every sense of the word.

In house agencies are exclusive. They are often run by strong-willed leaders who believe that their agency’s secret sauce is the way they designed their strategy pyramid or the way they promise a new twist on purposefulness.  

They are monocultures.  

Education should broaden the mind. It’s what schools do. Agencies are built to control the mind.  It’s what they do.

This industry has a habit of shooting itself in both feet. It jumps on a bandwagon faster than Dick Turpin, and it’s not very good at long-term planning.  

This industry needs its trade press to be better informed, to be better positioned to make better recommendations than the unfortunate trite in the AdAge article.

The purpose of a portfolio (which doesn’t have to be developed at a Portfolio School, by the way!!) is three-fold;

  1. It demonstrates the character or personality or attitude of the creative(s) behind the book. I could write pages or speak for hours about how this is so, and how it helps everyone.
  2. It presents an opportunity for the creative(s) to demonstrate their strategic thinking capabilities, and/or how simply they can express their ideas. This often helps schools or recruiters ensure that students end up homed in the right agencies.
  3. It allows us to work on craft skills, which have been hugely undervalued in recent times. Craft is a lifelong pursuit, but the love of craft is often discovered in schools (or at least it was).

The AdAge article suggests that agencies can pluck talent from TikTok and plant them into the creative department to work on live briefs. This is an insult to our trade, because it implies that a creative person doesn’t need to be trained before employment, which implies that any old idiot can crack a brief.

Yes, it is true there is a lot of talent on TikTok. I spend a few hours each week looking for talent to offer scholarships at SCA, where we will teach strategy and craft solidly until they are ready to be of value to industry.

To suggest that agencies should be doing the same is nonsensical. They are agencies, we are schools, and we each have our own purpose. Ours is to prepare and educate. Agencies is what exactly, AdAge?

Follow SCA Dean on Twitter @SCA2Dean

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