School may be out for summer but the boys and girls at Saatchi’s have been busy earning extra credit with their inspirational Ideas Academy. LBB’s Matt Cooper went along to swot up.
The business card may say Regional Creative Director, EMEA, but Saatchi’s John Pallant’s job title probably ought to read ‘some kind of Dumbledore’. Having set up the Saatchi & Saatchi Ideas Academy in 2005, he’s been instrumental in nurturing talent and fostering networks throughout the agency. This week saw the latest batch of specially selected up-and-comers attend a three-day workshop and graduate with flying colours.
The set up is deceptively simple. Pallant contacts every Saatchi ECD across Europe and asks them to nominate potential high fliers who they reckon would thrive on the scheme. Over the three days, attendees take part in creative games, get to pitch on live briefs and attend talks from the likes of Tate Modern.
“The games are all designed to release their kind of playful, positive, kind energy, which is what you need to have,” he says. “So it’s about how hard you have to work, how many ideas you have to have to get to greatness.”
Central to the Ideas Academy curriculum is the Saatchi ‘tribing’ approach, which encourages collaboration among creatives and allows them to look beyond the borders of their own market for a given brand.
“The tribes are a kind of improvisation that we use with the senior teams when we have got a big regional project or a pitch. We might get six senior teams together to develop and market the idea. We work together for three days, just on the brief,” explains Pallant.
“The tribe thing has gone beyond Europe. People have started to hear about it. P&G have shown a lot of interest in it, so they’ve been running trials on a lot of P&G brands and actually getting the clients involved. In the work sessions we’ll get them in at the end of the day and see the work that the guys have processed. So, it’s a kind of kick-start to the creative process and a way of fast tracking that initial stage and looking at a brief from lots of different angles.”
According to Jason Romeyko, European Creative Director for Toyota and Deutsche Telekom, the academy helps attendees make the most of the tribal outlook as well as navigating potential pitfalls.
“The tribe team looks for two things. Teachers emphasise how to grow an idea and how to actually ignore all the silly things we learn about dismissing ideas, because sometimes a bad idea can be an amazing idea. So, that’s the first thing,” he explains. “It also connects them individually to the network and gives them some kind of sensitivity to cross-cultural working. It gets them thinking bigger because, frankly, most of these guys will just do campaigns in their own market, whereas here they get the opportunity to work on certain things that are quite big.”
As well as nurturing creative growth and career development, the Academy allows the agency to spot stars of the future. Since being established seven years ago, the Ideas Academy has seen alumni prosper. “For example there were two Italians, Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, who came to one of the first or second academies, they’re now creative directors, and they’ve done the best work. They won 7 gold awards at Cannes Lions for their CoorDown Campaign on World Down’s Syndrome Day, where they replaced actors and models from well-known TV and print campaigns with actors who have Down’s Syndrome. There are a couple of really good things that have come out of Italy this year, so I would like to think that we helped them along the way,” says Pallant. “Also there was one workshop that I did on a Toyota brief, and the Ideas Academy actually delivered the work that was made in the end.”
The class of 2012 included prodigies singled out from Saatchi offices across Europe. Among this year’s attendees was Marko Werth, a 26-year-old copywriter from Dusseldorf. “The group atmosphere was so intense and inspiring, the output was mind-blowing and it was the greatest experience I’ve had in advertising so far. My colleague and I talked for 6 hours straight afterwards!” says Werth, who has worked at Saatchi’s since 2011. Last year he took home eight medals from the German ADC awards for his work on Bionade and Toyota, and he hopes that his stint at the Academy will build on his successes so far. “I am really pleased to be part of this experience, meeting such inspiring people has really fuelled my self confidence.”
Looking to the future, the organisers hope that the Ideas Academy will go global. According to Andrzej Moyseowicz, Strategy & Innovation Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, EMEA, the scheme occupies an interesting role given the current jobs and economic climate where talented, tech-savvy youngsters are competing for an ever-shrinking number of opportunities.
“I think it’s inevitably going to go global,” he says. “Look at the 19-29 year olds! They are the most highly educated and highly unemployed group in the history of mankind. They have a sense of fluidity of what it means to work and what that stands for now. Millennials like to tell other millennials what they’re up to, and they become advocates for things like the Ideas Academy, because they say, ‘that’s the kind of environment I want to work in’. So I think, without fail, it is going to become contagious. There are already other versions that are starting to pop up elsewhere.”
Pallant has been running between two and three Ideas Academies every year – the hard work involved in setting up these master classes is testament to his passion for nurturing talent. It’s also reflective of a supportive, family-like ethos in the agency as a whole. When it comes to fostering the future of advertising, the Ideas Academy is putting Saatchi & Saatchi in the running for teacher’s pet.