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Flying Seraph

Time To Improve Marketing Industry Education

I was gently bullied by some well-meaning University staff. A few years ago.

I gave as good as I got.

Not out of spite, but because I was horrified at what they were doing.

Here’s a true story:

Two academics (strength in numbers?) from a University that prides itself on teaching Marketing and Advertising visited me. They said:

“We’ve come to see you because you’re a respected Head of Planning. We’d like to show you our new syllabus.”

They added: “we’ve shown it to number of Agency MDs and they love it.”

I skim-read their pride and joy as they sat with me

And said to them: “You’re not going to like this very much, but – with great respect – I think it’s terrible”.

You see succumbing to pressure (perceived or actual) they’d developed a way to produce job-ready graduates – kids who know how to do what Agencies/Marketers do now.

Which might suit the expedient among us. Might work short-term. But does nothing for our future.

Here are the facts: We are learning so much, so fast, that the bulk of stuff students learn in the 1st year of a 4 year degree is out-dated by their 3rd year.

In fact, Universities are preparing students now for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technology we haven’t yet cracked which will solve problems we haven’t yet identified as problems.

My own Agency – particularly the office I’m based in – is vastly different to when I joined – three and a half years back (approximate duration of a degree, as it happens).

No. I am more convinced they were wrong each passing day.


In the Agency (or Marketing department) we can teach people how to run traffic, brief people, edit ads, etc.

Point of fact – like going from high school to University – they’ll learn more about how/what in 6 weeks with us than at University in 6 months.

My academic friends, I ask you with all the humility I can muster, please teach our kids how to think. Equip them to build the Marketing/Advertising business that we’ll come to need. Not just the business we’re currently in.

Stretch their minds. Stimulate them. Turn out critical and imaginative thinkers.

Give us bright, curious, young folk who can walk in and show us how to stop doing what we’ve been doing.

Give us flexible, resilient folk who can invent the future as they live it.

If you won’t take my advice, take it from my former boss, Rob Lee. You see years before this, I taught Marketing and Advertising at a University.

Captains of Commerce & Industry would often needle Prof. Lee: “There’s no education like good experience.” they’d say.

And he’d always respond: “And there’s no experience like a good education”.

Go on then.

Look to the great Universities of the world and ask yourself: ‘exactly what should a great Marketing/Advertising education look like?’

Then do that. And we’ll hire your students. (If that feels like bullying or blackmail, remember, you started it).

Please follow me on Twitter: @MarkSareff

Follow my series in here.

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