Napier University’s Craighouse Campus, is a warren of corridors and staircases. From its vantage point high on a grassy hill in Edinburgh’s salubrious southside the former mental asylum’s inspirational views across the city offer a distinctly creative outlook.
And when term starts this autumn, the university is hoping to have in place a new postgraduate course in creative advertising – the first course of its kind in Scotland.
The IPA in Scotland has been working closely with the university to finalise the details of the course which will help students learn the intricacies of working in a creative team, and allow them to get firsthand experience, while building up a well-guided portfolio.
Jonathan d’Aguilar, creative director at The Bridge, has been working closely with Napier’s Phillip Lodge over the last year to make the course a reality.
“The ball started rolling when Stephen Woodford was sworn in as IPA president in 2003. He promised to put training at the heart of his residency and unveiled plans for a new training programme across the industry.
“When I was asked to join the IPA committee, as a creative person – they don’t normally have creatives on the board – I thought about what I could contribute, and one thing that I thought that the industry in Scotland needed, in light of Woodford’s statement, was training.
“Mark Gorman and I arranged a meeting with Napier and it’s snowballed from there.”
The one-year course has been quick to gather support from the industry with all of the IPA’s member agencies agreeing to support it through placements and tutorial time.
The IPA itself and Barkers have both invested financially in the course, donating £2,000 and £5,000 a year respectively in the form of scholarships.
“Postgraduate courses don’t tend to attract funding,” says Phillip Lodge, “so it’s been great to receive the support in terms of scholarships that we have from the IPA and Barkers. We’ve had a great deal of enquiries already about the course, however one of the first things they tend to ask is about the scholarship.”
But with interest already being shown in the course, will creative directors around Scotland now benefit from a new breed of creative coming through university ranks?
“This will differ from an art school type of course,” says Lodge. “As well as working purely on the creative elements, there are areas of advertising strategy that teach the students how to work in a more real environment.
“With training in planning, production, writing economically and, of course, the placement, there is the opportunity to make the course more varied and real.
“A lot of educational courses are a bit divorced from the actual practice, but the idea behind this is to make it a collaborative course, working closely with the industry.
“We will be looking to work as close to reality as we can. The briefs we give out might have a three-week deadline. They might have three hours. We might set a brief with a two-week deadline then, after a couple of days, walk in and say that we need the work now and set a midnight deadline the following day. We need to see how people react under real pressure all the way.”
As is the norm with postgraduate courses, the entry requirement is an honours degree, however, due to the nature of the course a novel recruitment process will be introduced.
“One of the debates that we had was should we let someone that has graduated in, say, chemistry, join the course,” continues Lodge. “They might well be just as creative, if not more so, than one of the more traditionally creative courses graduates.
“Jonathan and I have already sat down to look through the applications, and everybody that we think we want to see will get a copy test. If we like what we get back, regardless of previous subjects studied, we will get them in for an interview, bringing in IPA members to help in this process.”
D’Aguilar believes that the hard work, time and money that has been invested in the launch of the course will benefit the Scottish advertising community in the long term: “It is a good opportunity to create a course that will attract Scots, as well as people from around the UK and further a field,” says d’Aguilar.
“Hopefully, with the experience that they gain while working with the Scottish creative community on the course, those that come through this course will be on a good grounding to go and spread their skills through the contact that they have had with Scottish agencies.
“Furthermore, the fact that the people coming through this course will have settled in Edinburgh and will have seen what the country has to offer will be a big benefit. What happens at the moment is that they go from English universities and colleges straight to London. Those that fail to get jobs in London then often try Scotland. This initiative is a great way to attract and keep the cream of the crop.”
Due to the close relationship between the course and the industry, Lodge also hopes that the course will break down the barriers that often exist between the two areas: “Because of the involvement of individual agencies through their guidance, through modules as well as placements, they will get to know the students quite well, so it will be an integrative process.
“The industry will be central to this course. Its design is governed by the industry; it is supported by the industry; the recruitment process is governed by the industry. It is very much a collaboration. It is not a case of ‘this is what we think people will want, so this is what we’ll do.’ We have had to work together to put this course in place. The need to keep it practical is essential.”
“The industry should become more involved in college and university courses, in general,” takes over d’Aguilar. “It would benefit those that are coming through marketing and communications courses immensely to have the close guidance of those that practice in the industry. The impression that I get of those that are currently coming through these courses is that they don’t always give real-life industry experience, and the students aren’t always best prepared for the challenges of agency life when they complete the course. This course will change that.”