Over the last six weeks, UK digital agency Realise Digital has put ten students from Edinburgh’s Napier University through their paces in an Apprentice-style programme called ‘Up-Grade’.
Up-Grade was launched by Realise Digital this year for the first time to help students in their third or final year of creative or technical courses learn about the inner workings of creative digital agencies. As Realise Digital’s deputy creative director Dave Ward, who led the programme, said: “We see guys coming out of education with little practical knowledge that will help them succeed in the real word. So we set about to do our bit to try and help change this situation.”
During the project the ten students were split into five teams, with one technical and one creative mind working together to come up with a concept based on a randomly selected fictional brief, to which they had to build a full campaign proposal and pitch within the suggested £50k budget.
To help the students on their way, each week they attended a one-hour briefing session in the evenings, which looked at a different aspect of digital marketing including planning, account management, usability, design, copywriting and development. The relaxed evening sessions also gave students to opportunity to really get to know the team at Realise. It also gave senior members of staff the Realise Digital staff a chance to share their knowledge of the industry and give practical tips.
Guest lecturers from Realise Digital’s client base also took part in the programme and included Iain Mackenzie, media project manager at Channel 4, Gareth Edwards, international web manager at Franklin Templeton Investments and Chris Rourke, MD at User Vision.
The programme culminated last week when each of the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of experts. Natalie Jones and her partner Jamie Galbreath were announced the winners for their idea of Blush Boutique – a campaign based on changing the perceptions of breast enlargement surgery from negative to positive.
“Natalie and Jamie presented their campaign idea very well," said Don Smith. "The story they told through the campaign was well structured, thought through and even came in within budget! But beyond that, the two of them showed a huge degree of understanding in terms of both the creative and technical challenges of the brief. Fundamentally it was their utterly brilliant, and surprisingly professional, response to our brief that won the judges over. It was work that we’d have been proud as an agency to present to a client.”
It didn’t stop there, however. As well as the official prize, Natalie was also offered a full-time position at Tesco Bank on the back of her involvement in the programme. This opportunity came about as Tesco contacted Realise Digital to find out whether they knew of any young creative talent. Realise responded by putting forward the CVs of all the creative Up-Grade participants and it was Natalie that won out.
Natalie Jones, said: “Up-Grade has been an amazing experience. During the last six weeks I’ve gained a real feel for the practical side of what it would be like to work in a digital agency and have learnt far more than I could possibly have imagined. I’ve also been very lucky, as the experience has opened doors for me within the industry, and has subsequently landed me my first full-time creative role with Tesco.”
Jamie Galbreath, who is still studying, feels that he’ll definitely have a competitive advantage over other students when he does start applying for positions. “Up-Grade has really put all the theory I’ve learnt on my course into practice. I feel that the last six weeks have given me a competitive edge that will help me as I look for that first job.”
Dave Ward, deputy creative director at Realise Digital, added: “We were impressed by the creative and technical expertise they brought from their course and hopefully we have been able to add some real-world experience to this.”
Realise Digital funded the Up-Grade project and is looking to expand the programme to other Universities next year. Smith concludes: “At the beginning of the project we promised each student would walk away with a new level of understanding. But Up-Grade has turned out to be much more than just a few lectures. The lecturers and students have really entered into the project with incredible enthusiasm and the pitches at the end were really first rate. We’re already talking to other Universities about running similar schemes across the UK.”