There can be few more glamorously named educational institutions than the Miami Ad School. Its very title conjures up images of beautiful people learning the art of copywriting on a sun-kissed beach. The organisation's website, with pink flamingos adorning every page, only adds to the picture.
But this extremely American-sounding organisation is, in fact, a global operation, boasting full-time schools in North and South America and Europe.
Although the school has run an intern programme in London for the past six years, start-up costs have, until now, deterred its founders, Ron and Pippa Seichrist, from opening a base here. Then, last month, the Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive, Lee Daley, offered them space in Charlotte Street and the first permanent London chapter of the Miami Ad School was born.
The Miami Ad School is the second training organisation Ron Seichrist has launched. Having worked as a creative director in London, New York and Germany during the 60s and 70s, Seichrist had grown disillusioned by the poor quality of work he was being shown by job applicants.
He became convinced that students would benefit from a practical grounding in the advertising disciplines and, in 1979, set up the Portfolio School, a facility he later sold. Its aim was to address the perceived shortfall in relevant tuition available to budding creatives.
"Ron had always experienced problems in hiring young people," Pippa Seichrist explains. "They used to present him with portfolios of paintings or journalism. He would see talented people, but they'd need a lot of training."
It's difficult to assess the success of the Miami Ad School merely by looking at its alumni. The organisation has only been going for 12 years, and, in its early days, graduate numbers were small. So, while the school's former students have gone on to win awards, only now are a handful of them beginning to mature into creative directors.
Daley's faith in the organisation stems from his own experience of teaching there - the Saatchis chief has lectured twice at the school, while his predecessor, Kevin Dundas, has kept annual speaking engagements there for the past seven years.
"In this business, we don't actually train our people for management, we train them in disciplines," Daley says. "The Miami Ad School is a fantastic laboratory for enabling us to see the creative director skills within our existing body of art directors and copywriters."
Chuck Porter, the chairman of the Miami-based hotshop Crispin Porter & Bogusky, agrees with Daley's assessment. He believes that the experience of working at the school has helped to equip his own creatives for the rigours of management.
"Being able to get what you want out of other people without actually doing it yourself is a wonderful capability," he explains. "And teaching at the ad school is a great way of learning it."
CP&B has been involved with the Miami Ad School since its genesis. Partnerships such as this are crucial for the school because, while its alumni have yet to confer greatness upon it, associations with agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, CP&B and Jung von Matt in Germany do much to bolster the organisation's reputation.
The school has cemented its partnership with CP&B in recent months. The agency's executive creative director, Alex Bogusky, has joined Porter on the school's board, while the agency itself will contribute to the curriculum, help to create the school's advertising and provide it with a permanent base of teachers.
Students study for eight terms - or quarters - spread across two years at one of the organisation's full-time schools in Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Hamburg or Madrid. At the beginning of the second year, the students get the opportunity to spend quarters studying in cities such as New York, Chicago, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam and, now, London.
So-called portfolio schools, such as the Miami Ad School and its predecessor, are now commonplace in the US. Even academic institutes, such as the Virginia Commonwealth University, are offering practical advertising courses that equip students with a portfolio of work. Has the proliferation of such provision allowed agencies to neglect their own internal training?
"The answer, I'm sure, is yes," Porter replies. "That's simply the way the business has gone. During bad times, such as the dotcom crash, things such as internal training programmes go away."
And do ad schools mean the end of the traditional post-room route?
"Portfolio schools have created an expectation on the part of people who hire that they're going to see people who have portfolios. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - the more of them there are, the more people will expect it," Porter adds.
THE MIAMI AD SCHOOL ROLL-CALL
Hamburg - Oliver Voss, creative managing director, Jung von Matt
Johan Kramer, founder, KesselsKramer
Amsterdam - Clare McNally (formerly of 180 Amsterdam)
Miami - Chuck Porter, chairman, Crispin Porter & Bogusky
John Bunning, art director, CP&B
London - Phil Clarke, art director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Mandy Hoveyda and Laura Metrano, creative team, Ogilvy & Mather, New
York - One Show and Grand Clio awards winners
Tim Hoppin, creative director, Publicis Zurich - bronze and silver
Cannes Lions winner
Tim Geoghegan and Caprice Yu, creative team, 180 Amsterdam - ABC Global
Young Gun and Epica silver awards winners