PERSPECTIVE: Raise the standing of adland through real qualifications

Keith Lucas, the European marketing communications manager for Samsung, has written a provocative feature this week that addresses the consultant versus agency debate from a seldom-heard viewpoint: that of the client (page 38).

Keith Lucas, the European marketing communications manager for

Samsung, has written a provocative feature this week that addresses the

consultant versus agency debate from a seldom-heard viewpoint: that of

the client (page 38).



Among many points, he raises the issue of the lack of emphasis agencies

place on education. ’How many agency practitioners have ever studied the

theory of their subject?’ Lucas asks. ’If advertising is to raise its

professional status, this must surely be a prerequisite.



(Imagine your surprise if your lawyer had never consulted a textbook

dealing with the issue on which you were consulting him.)’



Put like that, it’s an important question that demands

consideration.



I’ve never really believed that you can learn to be a great advertising

practitioner; there has to be room for instinct, the most underrated

virtue in the industry today. It’s true that too often instinct is

suffocated by research. But sometimes instinct - or feeling or hunch -

can be an apology for winging it; for not having put in the ground work

necessary to understand and address a problem in a manner rooted in

professional training and experience. Experience gives you the right to

have your instincts listened to. Without experience there’s just raw,

and sometimes misguided, talent.



As with journalism, I suspect half advertising’s practitioners have been

involved in some sort of industry training or another, while the other

half have not. But it’s arbitrary, not mandatory.



This isn’t the case in the professions. Advertising can’t have its cake

and eat it. It can’t put the quirky, zany and maverick on a pedestal at

the expense of the rational and scientific; it can’t inflict young and

untrained account handlers on experienced clients; it can’t be surprised

that creatives think they are creating art when they are recruited from

fine art courses at art colleges. Of course, while advertising isn’t

art, it isn’t an exact science either. Keith Lucas asks whether anyone

ever got promoted in advertising for knowing about theory. I’m not sure

they should. It’s not about passing through stages, as with GCSEs, A

levels and degrees. It’s about the practical application of knowledge

learned both on the job and (hopefully) in training. And

inspiration.



There may be something in Lucas’s observation that the business rewards

those who hop from job to job shrewdly, but you can apply that to

virtually any industry, from professional footballers to City traders.

Advertising appears to have more in common with City trading than the

professions.



If the industry is unhappy about the parallel (the other is with estate

agents), then there really is only one solution: set up formal training

schemes with compulsory qualifications. How many of today’s big names

would have got through?



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