So yesterday I posted a link to some exciting news that is happening at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai and that is happening for me.
For those who missed/ignored it, this is it.
Yes, Wieden Shanghai is – as we already have in Amsterdam and London – opening a school.
Not just any school, but one focused on creativity.
Not the theory of it, but the application of it.
It is something we have wanted to do for a very long time and the fact it’s happening is very exciting to all of us.
The other thing that’s exciting is that anyone who has a passion for creativity – whether you like writing, painting, photographing, coding or cooking – will be eligible to apply.
It will last 9 months, it will be based inside our offices and it will be focused on how creativity can push, challenge, destroy and create.
Oh, and I’m going to run it.
Some of you may know, but teaching – especially teaching creativity – is something that is very important in my life.
It’s so important, that I have spent the past 5 years training to become one so I can [hopefully] make it my post-advertising career.
So when Wieden asked me if I would run their school, I jumped at the chance.
Sure it will be challenging, sure it will be difficult to balance it with my planning job … but apart from the fact the company, my team mates and my colleagues have all been super supportive, encouraging and helpful in ensuring I’ll be able to do it while making sure I’m still a [semi] good husband and father to my wife, son and cat [ignoring the fact you all think I don’t do any work anyway] … it is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.
So what is that opportunity?
Well, as far as I see it, it’s being given the chance to destroy the old and explore the new.
The reality is The Kennedys in Shanghai will not teach how to craft advertising.
I’m a planner … I have no capability, let alone credibility, to teach the skills of copy, design and art direction.
Those are disciplines that take creatives, creative directors and designers an incredible amount of time to master and there’s no way I’m going to pretend I can do it when I have brilliant colleagues who could teach more in 2 minutes than I could learn in a 1000 lifetimes.
While I’ll definitely be calling on their – and countless others – expertise over the journey of the course, I’m going to be focusing on teaching the things I am good at … thinking creatively … acting creatively … releasing creativity.
In other words, I’ll be focused on two things:
+ Helping these 10 talented individuals use creativity – in the broadest sense of the word – to solve problems rather than just communicate them.
+ Helping these 10 talented individuals find and express their individual creative voice.
While the challenges are often going to be tough, tight and complex … the students will be told ‘anything goes’ in terms of how they approach them, as long as their creativity intrigues, involves and impacts the issue and the culture around it.
It’s for this reason The Kennedys is open to anyone who believes – and practices – creativity in it’s broadest terms … which, I will reiterate, can be anything including writing, thinking, photographing, painting, organising, blogging, needle working, coding, DJ-ing or cooking.
It’s also for this reason that I’m far more likely to ask the students to think of ways to get kids to eat more greens or create a board game that promotes positive debate than I am to get them concepting toothbrush ads.
The reason The Kennedys is about teaching the application of creativity in it’s broadest terms, not its narrowest is not just because Wieden has always valued creativity over advertising, but because if the industry is going to evolve, it needs to welcome those who see and practice creativity in ways that go beyond the narrow confines that adland has fought to defend and protect for the past 50+ years.
That’s not to say we won’t explore communication and how to do it brilliantly, nor does it mean we will ignore the great advertising from the past … it just means the focus of The Kennedys will be putting creativity into culture rather than pushing sales messages into ad channels.
If truth be told, it’s all going to be one giant experiment but then so was cynic and that was one of the great times of my life … so I’m hopeful it will be fun and valuable for me, for the students and for Wieden.
So if you know someone who believes in the power of creativity, send them this way and let’s see what trouble we can get them to create.
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