Opportunities should not be limited, which is why we are launching the Publicis Student Workshop
It seems particularly relevant to me to write this in the week the crows left the tower. It seems almost unthinkable that Tony Cullingham ended Watford’s publicity course, which spawned a ridiculous appeal from today’s best-known creative leaders.
I worry about the long term impact of losing such a good start. You could always tell a student at Watford – Tony had wired them in a very special way. I didn’t take the Watford course, but I’m often asked the old man “How did you get started in advertising?” »Question.
The quick answer is that my old classmate Paul Bruce needed a “copywriter” to be part of a “creative team” to get into “advertising.” I literally didn’t know anything – he had done graphics and was knowledgeable about advertising. I did everything he told us to do.
He had two great ideas: one was that we were going to see a new startup agency called Mother. The other was to try to take this course organized by D&AD, the D&AD Student Workshop. As the title suggests, this was a workshop organized by D&AD for students, every few months or so.
But you had to qualify to participate, which involved responding to a brief they had published and submitting your work in response to the brief. To prove how long ago that was, the qualifying entry package that was set was “a poster campaign to kick off the next Millennium Dome.” I want to say…
Our work on this brief in the summer of 1997 was not good (I vaguely remember the cave paintings in the Dome and some sort of “it was always meant to be” message) but somehow other, we took the course. Paul was and is a very good art director, so it was probably so.
The format was simple. Each week, you and the other fresh-faced, naive, and hungry aspiring advertising creatives show up at this week’s agency to pitch your campaign responding to this week’s brief to the creative directors who defined it; present in front of everyone, in a real live advertising agency, to real creatives, whose work you have actually seen.
One week we introduced the creators of the Tango work that we loved, at HHCL. The next day we felt incredibly overwhelmed by the red-panted alien scenery of JWT Knightsbridge.
The lesson I remember the most was Tim Mellors at Gray telling us to worry less about the intricacies of the idea and instead focus on how you present it in front of all these people. To be fair, our idea was to respond to his Tower of London briefing with a collage of Cilla Black and Gary Barlow with the phrase “Who would you put in the Tower?” So he was probably right.
Most importantly, each week we went to the pub with the rest of the workshop student teams, to heal our collective wounds and exchange stories of possible connections. Who lined up the elusive locations and where? Who were the cool creatives and in which agencies?
The other band members that Paul and I naturally turned to were a young team, Dave Monk and Matt Waller. They were then working, before their incredibly successful stint at BBH, in that other cornerstone of Soho, the Slug & Lettuce in Leicester Square.
Dave would become Nils [Leonard’s] ECD assistant at Gray, then in an outrageous act of kismet was already part of the gang when I arrived at Publicis Groupe – he’s been the ECD of Publicis Poke for a few years now.
Dave and I talked a lot about this D&AD student workshop, and how bizarre it is that a few Thursday evenings in Fall 97 saw a 20+ year association, mutual career path, and friendship across an industry. neither of us were prepared for from a distance.
D&AD stopped doing the student workshop in this form at some point in the 2000s. It evolved in different forms – most notable being the excellent D&AD Shift, which set the bar very high by widening the aperture. of our industry. And of course there are courses and competitions that just weren’t there in the prehistoric industry of 1997, from the Portfolio Course to SCA and The Talent Business’s Cream, to Brixton Finishing School and of course to the Publicis Groupe Open Apprenticeship.
But there should never be a limit to the opportunities. And the real bright idea came from Emma De La Fosse. Emma is the CCO of Digitas. Prior to that, she won numerous awards as CCO of Ogilvy One. But more importantly, before that, she was an equally ignorant member of the summer 97 D&AD student workshop. Different group of students from Dave and I, but exactly the same experience.
Emma pointed out that we have the ability here at Publicis Groupe to replicate this experience that we all had at the start of our careers. A brief, creative and sharp introduction to a world of advertising, digital, public relations, healthcare and media.
We are therefore launching the Not the D&AD Publicis student workshop: a six-week course, in person, in an agency, which follows the same structure, in all our agencies. We’ll aim to run it three times a year, and we’ll mix agencies and disciplines every time. But to start this fall. we will move from Saatchi & Saatchi to Digitas to MSL (PR and experience) to Leo Burnett in Langland (health) to Publicis Poke.
You will have a creative room and CDs from this agency that might notice your work. And just as important, you’ll have a room of peers, or potential creative partners that you might come to know over the next 20 years.
So if you feel like it all you have to do is respond to our brief. This is the issue that all creatives in our industry will soon be faced with. Well, good luck. And I hope to see you in the fall.
Ben Mooge is Creative Director of Publicis Groupe UK