The other evening, I was waiting for a talk to start and I got chatting to two guys sitting next to me.
Turned out they were advertising graduates trying to get placements.
I asked them how it was going.
They said their heads were spinning.
They said they went to lots of book crits.
But everyone was saying something different.
Some people said take that campaign out.
Some people said that’s the best thing in your book.
Some people said keep different campaigns separate.
Some people said separate the work by media.
Some people said one ad per page looks classier.
Some people said two or three ads per page looks more fun.
Some people said work on your execution more.
Some people said execution’s not important, work on the ideas.
Some people said you’ve got too much digital, you need more ad campaigns.
Some people said advertising’s dead, you need more digital.
So their heads were spinning.
That’s the point at which a lightbulb should go on inside your head.
There isn’t a right answer.
And our education system doesn’t prepare you for that.
In our education system, there’s always a right answer.
So naturally we’re taught to always look for the right answer.
What our system doesn’t teach us is how to think for ourself.
Nearly two thousand years ago, Plutarch said “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited.”
The education system still hasn’t learned that.
Because we don’t have schools, we have conveyor belts.
We don’t teach people to have inquisitive minds.
In 400 BC, Lao Tzu said “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
That’s how learning really works.
When you’re motivated to learn about something, you will.
But you need to be motivated.
So school should be about motivating people to think.
Not just memorising facts to pass tests.
Behind Harrods, there was a very interesting school run by an ex-army Major.
An interviewer asked him why he taught children swimming before he taught them English.
He said “The ability to swim will keep them alive long enough to learn English. The reverse isn’t necessarily true.”
Whether you agree with that or not, there’s a man who’s actually questioning the purpose of education.
He’s actually thinking about what he’s doing.
Years ago, a friend of mine was thrilled because his son was going to Cambridge to study French.
I asked his son what he wanted to do when he graduated.
He said he wanted to work in a film company.
I said “A French film company?”
He said no.
I said “An English film company in France?”
He said no.
I said “A translator doing subtitles on French films?”
He said no.
I said he’d better run it by me again because I was running out of options.
Why would a film company want someone with a French degree?
He said “Well a degree is a very marketable commodity.”
And there you have the English approach to education.
Get a qualification and you’ll be okay.
So hundreds of kids assume a degree in advertising will get them a job.
They’ve learned that’s the right answer.
Except it isn’t.
This isn’t school.
So there isn’t a right answer.
What there is, is an answer that works.
It may be a more exciting answer.
It may be a cheaper, faster, bigger, newer, more relevant, more sellable answer.
And it’s different in every circumstance.
And you need to be able to work out for yourself what that different answer is.
And that’s exactly what school doesn’t teach you.
In fact school teaches you the exact opposite.
To fit in,
To give them the answer they’re looking for.
To do exactly what’s expected.
Which is pretty much the exact opposite of advertising.