Recently, I went to a meeting of The Ideas Foundation.
This was started by Robin White.
Robin’s vision is to sponsor children from under-privileged, and minority ethnic, backgrounds into the creative industries.
Getting a break where they wouldn’t otherwise get one.
Robin’s vision is to sponsor 5,000 kids a year.
That’s a big ask.
But The Ideas Foundation is already sponsoring 1,000 kids a year.
And if Robin says he’ll do it, he’ll do it.
He’s unstoppable, like a purple tank with a lime green bow tie.
Robin is worried by a fact that we’re all aware of.
Advertising has become dull and samey.
It’s no longer exciting and outrageous.
The process of doing ads has become a big conveyor belt.
Just like the process of getting employed.
It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that the majority of people in advertising are white, male, middle class.
And most of the people applying to work in advertising are white, male, middle class.
Everyone’s the same.
Everyone thinks the same.
So everything we do is the same.
Pleasant but samey.
Like sliced white bread.
How do we change that?
Robin has one answer.
But at the meeting I also heard another answer.
Smaller but interesting.
Stef Calcraft said, at Mother they employ 6 runners a year.
These are people who don’t know anything about advertising, or being creative.
All they want is a job.
So they get a job as a runner.
Delivering the post, making the tea, washing the cups, cleaning meeting rooms, delivering parcels, whatever needs doing.
In the course of this they see account men having meetings, copywriters doing recordings, art directors on photo shoots, planners writing charts, they see many jobs they never knew existed.
And they can see if it looks like something they’d like to do.
And, if they’ve got it in them, they can try.
If they’ve got it in them.
Some have, some haven’t.
The important part for me is: ‘if they’ve got it in them’.
They get an opportunity.
Then it’s up to them to take it, or not.
That’s the crucial part for me: ‘it’s up to them to take it’.
Before computers, the post room was where old fashioned mail got handled.
Where it came in and was sorted.
And, from where, it got delivered around the agency.
A lot of good people started in the post room, or similar.
People like: Frank Lowe, David Putnam, Alan Parker, Chris Palmer, Gordon Smith, loads more.
In those days not everyone went to university or art school.
So not everyone had an automatic in.
When they got to the post room they didn’t know what they wanted to do.
They just wanted a job.
This was a job.
So they took it, and then kept their eyes open.
Then they saw what working in an ad agency was about.
And they made the opportunity happen.
They worked their way out of the post room into the department they wanted.
Then they worked their way up in that department.
And for me, that’s the difference.
They made it happen.
It wasn’t handed to them on a plate.
These guys had to do it all for themselves.
And for me that’s what we’re missing.
People who can do it for themselves.
People who will fight their way out of the post room.
People who will fight their way to the top.
In fact people who will fight at all.
That’s what we’re short of.