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Agency Culture Education Marketing

Culture is moving faster than ad schools ever could – so what can they teach?

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By Viktoria Wyckman, Founder and CEO

August 30, 2023 | 7 min read

Viktoria Wyckman, founder and chief executive at Culture Defined, chose creative work over academia. She offers an outside look at the changing role of ad schools.

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When I decided to skip uni to jump straight into working both day and night in a photo studio in Stockholm, many people doubted my decision – claiming it was a waste of talent, a waste of my grades, and a wrong decision.

Why couldn’t I just be a good girl and follow the social norms to become a lawyer, an economist, a doctor, something respectable? Or at least study advertising if that’s what my heart was set on doing?

This mindset left me with academic insecurities. It took me years to realize that advertising is moving way faster than the ad schools I avoided.

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My 10-year-old niece Thelma came to me this summer back home in Sweden proudly and with a huge amount of excitement. On her Snapchat, she had earned millions of points, had thousands of friends and was hundreds of days into daily conversations with all her friends. She is completely immersed and gamified, chasing the dopamine hit, yes, but it’s also her way of communicating and staying in touch with everyone. She’s posting hundreds of Snapchats per week, and she’s practicing all the things she’s learned on TikTok on a daily basis.

Today, there are over 4.8 billion social media users, over 34m TikToks get posted daily, and over 5bn snaps are being sent daily. Alongside this – over 42% of all internet users are using ad-blockers. And Gen Z is on track to be the largest generation in history. How on earth are we meant to keep up with the speed of this evolution if we lock ourselves into a classroom where we talk about what happened last year?

Indeed, a huge amount of social psychology backs many advertising theories; that is something no one can neglect, as this is the essence of how we buy and interact with what we see. But the issue is that all of the things we develop on the back of these insights, tactics, strategies, frameworks and channel theories when handed to our teachers and advertising schools, they’ve missed the party boat. It’s already too late.

Education is an incredible thing. I’m not telling you not to learn.

I couldn’t execute a surgery if I hadn’t studied it, and neither would I want to learn my surgeon was self-trained the moment the anesthesia hit me before said surgery.

It’s the same with many other professions. But advertising and creativity are different. The moment you learn the ‘tricks,’ the tricks are no longer tricks, just dusty old tactics. And that will not cut through the noise. And the moment you feel like, ‘Oh yeah, I get this,’ there’s already something new on the horizon.

Some of the best creative professionals throughout history – Vincent Van Gogh, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Choe, Frank Loyd Wright, Karl Lagerfeld, Maya Angelou, Coco Chanel, Virgil Abloh – all have something in common. They all dropped out of school. They don’t have a degree in their creative profession. They are self-made creatives.

Creativity is looking outside the box. It’s seeing the unseen and letting curiosity be the driving force. There is space for tremendous success among people who follow their instinct to develop their skills independently, people who dare to learn by doing and let uncertainty lead their way of exploration to understand what’s next.

Your good, bad or average grades don’t need to dictate what’s next for you. I was lucky to have an easy time through high school, but thank god I didn’t listen to society saying that I should work in the international economy or become a lawyer… because I hate paperwork. And thanks to myself for listening to my gut and passion, for the years of learning by doing, and for the constant information and skill to listen and connect the dots. It all led me to where I am today.

So, how do ad schools keep up and make the students’ time worthwhile?

Advertising is a constant change. Constant adoption. Constant exploration. Constant curiosity. We must fuel the students to seek and learn how to step outside the framework. We need to find and create more and better playgrounds for them to spark a constant hunger to constantly try and fail, to try and succeed, and to continually listen and not get stuck in doing yet another TVC ad…

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