How an Instagram ad changed my life – By chlo_gray

By Chloe Gray


How an Instagram ad changed my life


This time last year I didn’t have much hope for my career. After three years of working at a record label, I’d already been promoted as far as I could be, and was tired of the same monotonous tasks, but didn’t know what to do next. One day I was sitting at my desk in King’s Cross, mindlessly tapping through Instagram stories instead of working, when between avocado toast and a cat’s birthday party, an advert popped up for something called Brixton Finishing School. The name intrigued me; I didn’t know there were still any finishing schools, not least in Brixton. Alas, I had more Boomerangs of people cheers-ing prosecco glasses to get through, so I tapped on. That night on the train home, the same ad returned. This time I was a little more curious, so opened the link to see what this school was about.


“We offer a FREE 10-week programme which delivers a premium learning experience for our students through a mixture of lessons and real-world advertising.”


My interest was piqued at “free” so I read on. I’d been imagining a career in advertising since seeing Mel Gibson in ‘What Women Want’ as a kid. His job looked too fun to be real. The page continued:


“We reach out to under-represented groups in the creative industries (multicultural, working-class, neurodiverse, female) to find those with untapped potential.”


I ticked a couple of those boxes, and thought I might have some untapped potential; I was always getting into trouble at work for neglecting my responsibilities and trying to work with the creatives instead.


I took five minutes to register my interest, then soon received an invitation to an open evening. 


When the day came around, I was in two minds about going. I still wasn’t exactly sure what I’d signed up for, and I was tired from a long day of pretending to work. But I gave in to curiosity and made my way to Clear Channel’s office in Soho, where the open evening was being held. Looking back, I think that might have been the wisest choice I’ve made so far.


I took a seat and waited for the talk to begin. The founder of Brixton Finishing School, a woman with bright red hair called Ally Owen, took the floor. She described the necessity for the course, as well as why it was a great time to enter the creative industries and what the ten weeks would look like. She breathed life into the room when she spoke; her passion and excitement galvanised everyone listening. I could tell she believed in what she was doing fiercely. To end the evening, we were split into groups and given a brief to come up with an idea for a new app, then had to pitch it to the room. I loved this task and knew I wanted to repeat it.


I called my dad on the way home because I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm to myself. I told him how inspired I had been by Ally, how great the course sounded, how last year’s graduates all had cool jobs now. He asked how I would pay my rent if I was studying instead of working. I told him I’d figure it out.


A written essay and an interview later and I was accepted onto the course.


July quickly rolled around and I got to meet my coursemates; people from every part of London and beyond, ranging from 17 to 27-year-olds. Spending every day together meant we quickly became close.


The weeks that followed were a crash course in creative. Our time was meticulously scheduled. We had masterclasses from advertising lecturers who set us challenging but interesting briefs. Every day a creative or strategist from places like R/GA and Omnicom gave a talk. At least once a week we went on taster days to agencies, media companies and tech companies – some of my favourites were adam&eveDDB, MTV and Google. We had workshops from career coaches, as well as being paired with a personal mentor who got to know us over the course.


In ten weeks, I went from knowing absolutely nothing about the industry except for what I’d garnered from a few episodes of Mad Men, to understanding the workings of advertising and media agencies, as well as the business of programmatic advertising. I graduated with a LinkedIn page full of new, valuable contacts, and a clear vision of my future. My confidence, self-worth and ambition all grew hugely. And through the course, I was awarded a scholarship to SCA, where my growth has been able to continue. 


My coursemates, who are now my good friends, have gone on to work at many of the course’s sponsor companies such as R/GA, VCCP, McCann and Kinetic.


I’ve written this SCAB because Brixton Finishing School is currently taking applications for the 2020 course. You can register your interest on their website here.


If the best things in life are free, then BFS is definitely one of them. If you’re creative, tech-minded, or want to change your life with a career in an exciting industry full of interesting people, then what do you have to lose?

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