By Sara Halliday
IT’S THE FINAL SCAB-DOWN (do do doo do, do do do do doo)
Today marks 300 days since I started at the SCA. It also marks 1 day until the first portfolio day, and 10 until my last day. Perfect opportunity for a full-on debrief for future intakes.
Before we even begun, we had the end of year party. Seeing the Fat Penguins ‘graduate’ from the SCA was a great way to spend a July evening. Not only did I meet my partner Becky (no joke, she was the first person I spoke to that night), but I found out that Henry was into ‘depressing music’ and that Joe was so much cooler than me. I’d really recommend that future intakes go to the end of year party, start that networking before the masses (plus grab some free drinks).
That first day I was so excited. It was September 12th. I wore dungarees. The only time I had seen inside the school was on my interview day. I remember scouring the internet for photos of the church, just to mentally prepare myself for what was ahead. Try to talk to as many people as possible, particularly those that you don’t seem to immediate gravitate to. Throw yourself into the system, and leave both your inhibitions and preconceptions at the door. There are people in the room that I wouldn’t have approached before the SCA, that’s one of the beauties of the place. Be your full self too, people will love you for who you really are rather than who you feel you should be.
The whole first week was a blur, leaning people’s names, making things that at the time felt significant but looking back were anything but, sitting on the floor… It was everything I had wished education up to that point had been. The point was to make us learn about ourselves, but try not to take it all so seriously. We had so much fun making absolute nonsense that week, but we were stressed too. When Marc tells you that you’re only working at 20% of your capacity you will laugh and cry in his face, but he is being honest. You can work harder than you ever thought possible, and D&AD deadline day will confirm that. We turned our whole entry around on that last day, and are now going to pick up a pencil on Thursday. Hard work beats talent.
Into the rest of first term, nothing significantly good or bad happened really. It was a case of trial and error. We did some shockers of portfolio briefs, from getting old people to take up painting to creating pensions for babies. Have as much fun as possible with the PBs, and genuinely do try to smash them. We’re at the point now where we wish we had a finance campaign in our portfolio, and if we had cracked that pensions brief it would be far easier.
You’ll have to start thinking about partners now too. John were THE latest intake to partner up, and it was a huge source of stress for some people. Everyone will say ‘Try as many people in the room’, and that is true, but you’ll have an idea who you gravitate towards too. If you think you’d work well with someone, stick to your guns until you make it happen. Ben wanted to work with Helena this year, and he kept at it until they hit their flow. Look at them now, they’re bloody brilliant.
Second term. Oh second term. The making and the breaking of you. Try and stay above Marc’s Quality BullshitTM, but make sure to work out WHY he’s trying to break you. For Becky and I, I’m pretty sure he wanted to build our resilience. We’re very much lovers not fighters, and we used to get into a funk after bad feedback. I hate to say it, but I think it worked. We’ll see at portfolio day tomorrow. I’ll update you if there are tears.
D&AD will mess with you in second term too. You’ll throw yourself into the briefs, probably take on more than you can comfortably handle, take feedback from everyone under the sun, then ditch some the day before the deadline after having worked way too hard on it already. I can promise you though, you’ll be glad you dropped it. If you win a pencil, great, if you don’t, great. Some of the best teams this year won nothing, and it’s no reflection on their talent. Awards are subjective, after all.
Going into third term is when shit gets serious. The rate of portfolio briefs will decrease rapidly, and it’s on your own back to pick up briefs. Marc will tell you about thirty times that there are “over 200 spare briefs on Google Drive”, but it’s not until you’re hours into a strategy that is going nowhere that you fully appreciate the starting points. It’s something I wish I’d done more, picking up random briefs. I remember Helena and I had a fun day doing a campaign for the Riverboats. Doing stuff off your own back gives you the opportunity to work on brands that you love, and make work that reflects you.
Book crits, yes, do them. When you think you’ve done enough, go and do more. Make a spreadsheet to record everyone’s feedback, check for trends. If the agencies you want to work at love something but everyone in school hates it – listen to the agency (if you agree with them, of course). You’ll realise that barely anyone knows what they’re doing in this industry, but when you find someone who does then grab hold of them with both hands.
I’m not sure I’m qualified to talk about the run up to portfolio day, having not actually had one yet. For all I know, this advice could all be absolute nonsense. I will say though, find yourself a good partner. Like in the world of love (lol chill out Sara), a good partner takes some of the pressure off yourself. I trust Becky fully, and I like to think she trusts me too. She’s one of the most reliable people I know, and that helps when you’re putting your future employment in someone’s hands.
So, that’s me signing off for the final time. Have the best time next year you crazy kids. It’s not an easy year, but it’s worth it in the end. Trust that Marc wants the best for you, and know that you’ll come out this time next year a better creative because of the SCA.
Anyway, better go and get some sleep, big day tomorrow.