By Petra Andersson
8 things I wish I knew before I started SCA.
What better way to end my journey than to summarize all the wisdom I’ve collected during the year? Here are my top 8 tips for surviving SCA.
1. Take a break.
I found out about the school the day of the deadline and applied on a whim. I think I said I was just ’so shocked and surprised’ about 10 times after Marc offered me a place on the course. This decision came with a lot of logistics – I had 7 weeks to move countries, quit my job and convince the Swedish government that I was applicable for student loans.
Which isn’t that much when you work 40 hours a week. And even less when you turn that up to 55 while spending the nights working on a passion project that 80% of the people on the course will never see.
Why not throw in an exam and a weekend conference as well?
When I arrived 36 hours before my first day at SCA I felt knackered. Which is not a very good starting point. So don’t do that. Make sure you are well rested – and even better a little bored. Your creativity and future self will thank you.
2. Don’t take term one too seriously.
You’re obviously here to learn and should definitely be a sponge and listen to all the interesting people you’ll meet. But when I started term one I felt I had to create campaigns that were as good as last year’s books on portfolio day.
You should always aim high, but that kind of thinking slowed me down and made me stress for no reason. And because of it I didn’t have as much fun with my campaigns as I could – or tried and learnt as much as I wish I had. Skills grow with quantity, so don’t waste time on expecting mastery.
3. Try to get your head around strategy early.
I don’t know if anyone told you this, but the key to a great student book is to reframe brands and create communication that don’t look like ads. Ultimately, seeing work in your book will make us see the brand in a new light. And to get there you need to understand strategy. We had a lot of short masterclasses in strategy during term one, but it wasn’t until we had a very thorough crash course with Olly that the penny finally dropped.
Try to convince Marc to give you that strategy for dummies masterclass earlier in the year and make sure you stick to the basics until you get the hang of it. It’s easy to drown in an endless sea of theories and terminology.
4. Start planning your days early.
Term 1 and 2 are frustrating at times because everyone is working with everyone – which makes it difficult to keep a schedule. But stand your ground and be the control freak. Because you want to use that free time you got to nourish your soul.
When you’re panicking over D&AD at 2 am you’ll thank yourself for having good routines and for making sure you’ve fed your brain. It will probably help you to get one step closer to that award- winning idea too.
5. Be selfish.
Being a Swede and a girl isn’t always the best combination – it’s easy to take a step back in order not to intrude. And to follow too many rules. I was in a partnership that wasn’t really working but felt bad about breaking up before time was up. I wanted to ask someone I worked with before, who also was struggling, to team up.
But I didn’t want to be the catalyst for a split between her and her partner. So I bided my time. Then I got ill the day that everyone split up and changed partner, and am now a single while she works with somebody else. It’s possible we wouldn’t have been a good match. But I would much rather have known.
6. Advertising is still a man’s world.
This might also have to do with cultural clashes between Sweden and the UK, but advertising has long been ruled by men and it shows in the climate and culture. People expect you to be strong, to know your place in the hierarchy and remain the status quo. Sure advertising is about coming up with new ideas, but the values are still traditional and there are right and wrong ways to break the rules. Generally, it’s more ok to break a law than to ask someone why they didn’t talk to you after they made you cry in class (yep, that happens).
7. Portfolio day isn’t your execution date.
This is basically what I try to tell myself every day, but I’m still imagining portfolio day to be a mash-up between Hunger games and the Purge. Placement teams and ECDs will tear me into pieces and eat me alive before I even get a chance to reach the cornucopia.
Believe it or not, but you will survive. Even if your book isn’t the best thing that ever saw the light of day. Of course, you want to completely smash it and be the best thing that ever came out of a uterus, but you can also smash it every day you have left of your life. Opportunity will continue to be here and you can keep working on that book until you get the job you want.
8. In the end, it’s just ads.
This is something I try to tell myself when I’m crying at 3 am in the morning and questioning whether I should try to make a DIY noose out of the shower hose or not. You’ll probably ask yourself the same question a couple of times. No matter how good poker faces or self-esteem – everyone goes through periods of imposter syndrome. And during the most intense weeks of D&AD and before portfolio day you’ll find people crying in the toilets.
Always remember that you are more important than any award or placement. When you start to take yourself and your work too seriously it’s probably time for a break. In the end, we’re selling matches, nappies and toilet paper. The world will keep on spinning even if you don’t get it right. I promise.
Now go out, have fun and make the world a better place.