Brixton Finishing School grads Mahalia Peake, Kristina Kirova and Melanie Noguiera share five solid action points to make the industry a more accessible, inclusive, respectful place
Allow us to introduce ourselves.
We are part of the Brixton Finishing School Class of 2020 and we really admire your work. We’ve learned so much about you over the past ten weeks; working with other young creatives to understand what makes you tick and we’ve loved every second of it. However, some of us at BFS couldn’t help but notice a few inconsistencies in your tone of voice and values of late, and we’re hoping to get your opinion on our findings.
Value 1: Open and accessible
You say you want to bring in diverse talent and working with initiatives like BFS is a great start, but if you really want to attract young diverse creatives, you need to go to them instead of hoping they’ll come to you. The sad fact of the matter is Adland is a closed shop, practically undiscoverable to those with no insider knowledge. How does a teenager search for placement schemes when they don’t know what an agency is? Knowledge is power and in Adland it’s a privilege afforded to very few. For many us, we had no-one to tell us about M&C Saatchi’s Carbon Academy, or BBH’s The Barn, or to read Campaign mag (which we can’t afford anyway), and so finding BFS was the only thing that prevented us from falling by the wayside. While we appreciate schemes like YCC designed to increase awareness and accessibility, unless they’re placed in areas where young people are situated, e.g. schools and universities, then it becomes no more effective than shouting into an empty tunnel.
Value 2: Innovative and inclusive
You pride yourself on your innovation, it’s become the foundation for much of what you do, so we can’t help but question why a core part of your industry is so outdated. In Adland, networking is an outdated system built from the foundations of nepotism and privilege that work against increasing diversity. Yes, this system cuts down the recruitment process for agencies, and yes it gives some aspiring creatives a direct route in, but this is all contingent on having these connections in the first place. So many times over the past ten weeks people have told us to network and play the system, but when we think back to us as BFS starters ten weeks ago, qualified and desperate to find a way in, we wonder why through all of your innovation, the system can’t be changed to be more inclusive?
Value 3: Creative with a diversity of thought
For some time now you’ve acknowledged the need for diversity to stimulate creativity, but have you considered whether you allow for a true diversity of thought? Adland has been built for the extroverts, and we get it to an extent. We’re in the selling business, and so we’re expected to sell ourselves. However, many of us have no training in how to survive this dog-eat-dog world, and for those who are introverted or suffer from social anxiety, it can feel like being shoved headfirst into the deep end before you’ve learned to swim. Being constantly active on social media; asking questions in large group settings; even inviting someone to a virtual coffee are all tactics used to stand out from the crowd, yet it can cause high levels of stress and anxiety for certain people. This industry is so reliant on networking and making sure you’re noticed that those not trained in this lifestyle have to either deal with the extreme mental exhaustion it creates, or risk unemployment. This would be understandable if being extroverted was necessary for every role, but it’s not.
The creative industry leaves a lot of room for imposter syndrome to fester, it’s a place where we expose our creative minds to the criticisms and judgements of others. We’re not born confident, it is something that must be nurtured in the right environment, and for some who perhaps need more time than others, they may find themselves being left behind.
Value 4: Kindness and respect
Kindness and respect are values all agencies proclaim, but in many of our meetings between BFS and you, it became apparent that being ‘respectful’ and waiting for your turn to speak is never going to happen unless you speak over others. Your gregarious character can create an environment that doesn’t open the curtain wide enough for those who prefer not to take centre stage but still want to voice their opinion. For real respect to flow through, there needs to be more care taken to allow all of us to speak up and express our thoughts and ideas, especially as these meetings turn virtual.
Actions for change:
We want to leave you with five actions you can adopt to tackle the issues we’ve raised:
1. Go to schools and universities; post your grad schemes on more than your LinkedIn and Twitter. Do what you do best: advertise.
2. Establish a blind recruitment system that eradicates bias and prove it.
3. Adapt talent recruitment to the specifications of the job role rather than to one personality type and disclose salaries in the application.
4. Learn how to manage different personalities. Insights Discovery and Lumina Sparks both have training programmes on this.
5. Stop using young creatives for free labour. Whether it’s working on a creative brief or participating in an industry talk, we deserve to charge by the hour.
We would love to have a virtual coffee with you to discuss this in more detail,
, 23, copywriter, future D&AD pencil winner and CCD (discover Mahalia's portfolio here
, 23, junior marketing engineer, future CEO (follow Kristina's jewellery brand on Instagram here
, 21, photographer, future producer (check out Melanie's photography on Instagram here).
Brixton Finishing School (Virtual) Class of 2020