Support for the School of Creative Arts 2.0

Originally posted as A Different Hat, Jan 25 2010, 10:18 PM

It is all very well for creative agencies to be proud of their work but how ‘creative’ are they really? Despite all the talent they employ, very few agencies or publicly quoted communications groups pro-actively create new businesses which, in turn, create proprietary financial value. It is far easier for agencies to react to client briefs and respond as best they can.

Admittedly, creative agencies have a history of spawning great novelists, but how many of the online and digital media businesses that have made financial fortunes over the last few years have emerged from creative and media agencies – or the groups that own them? For example, how many have developed Apps for which they own the IP? Very few, if any.

Last week (22 January 2010), Campaign reported the rebirth of The School of Communication Arts (SCA 2.0). This initiative not only aims to attract new and more diverse talent to the industry but has also developed a uniquely creative approach as to how such a venture could be funded and managed.

The School is aiming to raise money from ‘patrons’ in order to provide scholarships for the students who, as part of the course, will be mentored by industry experts. Even more intriguingly, in return for scholarship investments of up to £20k a year, the students (aka ‘ideapreneurs’) will be briefed to create businesses that will be launched in the big wide world. For real. And the patrons will be allocated shares, creating the opportunity to make financial returns on their original ‘investment’ in the School.

Marc Lewis, whose mission it has to relaunch SCA 2.0 as a measure of thanks to – and respect for – his late mentor, John Gillard, has clearly defined his objectives and developed this truly creative solution.

It is true that waves of new agencies emerge from time to time, but very few apply their creative skills to create businesses outside their own comfort zone. I know of only one agency that, rather then rely on the fee- paying model, has re-modelled itself to create its own clients in return for equity and financial value. But how many of these are out there?

Last year, Sir Martin Sorrell admitted: “The people who run agencies tend to be of an older vintage – to put it politely. They tend to be resistant to change and want to spend the last three to four years of their careers travelling around the world rather than dealing with fundamental strategic issues on a daily basis”.

If creative agencies can’t move with the times, and develop ‘ideapreneur’ – or, perhaps, ‘interpreneur’ – strategies themselves, how credible are they to clients, their own industry and the wider world from which they have become so disconnected?

Agencies, clients, and the media companies in which their work appears, especially the major multinationals in all three, should not only support The School of Communication Arts 2.0 – but they should also learn from its example.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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