Virtual school for advertising talent seeks students

Ally Owen (centre) with students at the end of the first course in Brixton
Ally Owen (centre) with students at the end of the first course in Brixton

The Brixton Finishing School, the acclaimed 10-week digital creative and accelerator programme for underrepresented young people in the advertising and media industries, has launched a virtual learning course in response to the crisis and the subsequent school closures.

The industry-leading programme gives under-represented talent across the opportunity to develop important skills for breaking through into a traditionally hard-to-reach world. This includes multicultural, working class, neuro-diverse, and female candidates who have gone on to secure roles at leading companies including R/GA, Adam & Eve DDB, Mail Metro Media, Clear Channel, Rubicon Project, Kinetic, Mediacom.

The virtual school, beginning on 29 June will recruit students through “online taster sessions” and offer a wide curriculum choice, including interactive learning through masterclasses and workshops, with video classrooms, a shared working agenda and independent project work, helping to provide development opportunities at a time of uncertainty.

The Brixton Finishing School has also undergone a massive revamp this year with a new ad campaign and brand identity that celebrate the inherent value and potential of inexperienced and creative young people with a hunger to succeed.

Agencies Brave and Essence provided pro bono support for the revamp.

Ally Owen, Brixton Finishing School’s founder, said: “In these uncertain times, when schools and businesses are shuttering the world-over, we saw an opportunity to reach more young people and encourage outstanding talent into advertising, regardless of academic qualifications.

“We fast-tracked plans to create an inclusive digital space as well as a physical experience from 2021, to give as many people with potential – who might ordinarily be working in industries like hospitality (who I know, as an ex-employee of this sector are rich in transferable skills) – a chance to enter our industry and all the economic success it offers.”

The school’s colourful new ads and website feature graduates from the 2019 Brixton Finishing School  and encourage talent to start applying now for summer 2020.

Brixton Finishing School relies on the generosity of agencies and media companies donating their time and ad space to further the cause.

Only 13.8% of UK ad agency employees identify as multicultural and just 5.6% of executive level managers are from ethnic minority backgrounds. While female representation is around 52% across agencies, at board level this figure is only 32.7%.

“The industry is crying out for different voices to create fresh perspectives, new ideas and ultimately better work. We encourage others who want to be part of this positive movement to join our alliance and be a force for positive change,” Owen said.

Brave business director Declan Garvin said: “As a white working class lad, seeking that first ad job in the mid-90s, London rents were cheap and more opportunities existed so it was difficult but not impossible to break into the creative industry.

“Since then, the cost of housing has risen year on year, more people have gained qualifications, government funding for apprenticeships has been very sporadic and, as a result, social mobility has got increasingly worse.

“I’ve felt pretty powerless to do anything, which is why I’ve been so inspired since meeting Ally, her team and the super talented students past and present from Brixton Finishing School.

“We all have a collective responsibility to improve diversity in adland so it’s a no brainer for us at Brave to support Ally in her energetic mission to bring the unique content from her course to a wider online audience which will mean she can champion and fight for even more positive change.”

Ryan Uhl, brand strategy director, and Lauren Dick, director, business development, at Mail Metro Media, said: “There is just something so special about the programme that Ally has created.

“Ally finds raw, unfiltered and super creative individuals, and then gives them an all-access accelerator delivered by some of the best experts of the industry.

“The talent that has entered our business because of Brixton Finishing School is something we will always be thankful for and one of the reasons we are proud to continue to support the initiative.

“We are so excited to be going bigger this year by promoting the opportunity to more young people with a full Metro cover wrap hitting London and the South East, as well as UK wide digital creative on MailOnline and We hope to reach even more undiscovered talent in 2020.”

Brixton Finishing School begins on 29 June 2020 and is accepting applications until 1 May 2020.

Candidates will be assessed on industry positive attributes, rather than academic qualifications, in virtual group tasks with Brixton Finishing School industry supporters.

The Brixton-based School of Communications Arts 2.0, the world’s most awarded advertising school, awarded three scholarships to the talent graduating from the course in 2019 and will again open its scholarship scheme to BFS talent in 2020.

Launched in 2018, Brixton Finishing School is the brainchild of Ally Owen, a former exec at Unruly, MailOnline and Yahoo. She has been named “One of the women who inspire Campaign” and Brixton Finishing School’s graduates feature in the documentary #HearMeAdland which explores the barriers facing people from under-represented groups.

Brixton Finishing School is funded by Hoxton United, a digital and social media agency.