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Making big ideas matter – the School Of Thought creative programme

  • by Upp B2B
  • 12th Jul 2017
    • Creative

At the end of last year our Creative Manager Martin Askew became one of the select few to take part in School of Thought’s industry programme – a rigorous process for the top creative minds in the north-west. We interviewed him on his time on the programme, and here’s what he had to say…

For those who might not know, what is School of Thought?

It’s a programme held over 12 weeks, with 12 people competing for the chance to win a trip to Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. We attended Monday and Thursday sessions every week. For the first 11 weeks we received a creative brief and a lecture on the Monday given by creative agency heads and on the Thursday we presented our big ideas. In the final week, the winner was announced.

What made you want to go for it?

For me, it was being able to visit all the different agencies and meet the creative directors, and get their opinion on your work. It was also the challenge the programme offered – I expected the briefs to be tough and the timescale to be challenging, so I thought if I could do that then I’ve really achieved something! Getting through the application process and into the top 12 alone is really something, because you have to answer a brief and be selected to get on to the programme.

What was the application process?

School of Thought set a brief that had three parts to it: talk about an ad you love and why; recreate an old ad that you loved from childhood; and answer a creative brief.

In part one I spoke about the McDonalds pound saver menu campaign – there’s an ad with a guy in fancy dress cutting his hedge in the front of his house. And his neighbour turns up and says, “Alright Keith?”, “I thought your party was last week?” and he replies “Oh this, well the shop doesn’t want it back ’till tomorrow, so…” then we hear the voice over with the campaign line “Like getting your moneys worth?” I think this is a really neat idea, and every time I see it, it makes me smile.

To answer part three I created print ad concepts for Band Aid, aimed at parents. The proposition being that scrapes and cuts are a part of growing up – that’s why Band Aid is here to help. My concept positions Band Aid plasters as a scuff and scrape repair kit accompanied with visuals of a skateboard still moving, and a swing still swinging, both missing the child that was on them!

Client: Band Aid: Brief: Remind busy parents of Band Aid Idea: Featuring everyday play mishaps; the skateboard keeps going and the swing keeps swinging after the kids have fallen, Band Aid plasters are positioned as a scuff and scrape repair kit – patch your kids up so the fun can carry on!


It was quite a challenging brief really, but you just do the work and submit it and see what comes out! So I did, and made the 12 – a good few people apply so I was really pleased. Once I’d got on to the programme I just wanted to give it my all and really enjoy it. It could get competitive though, because I’d sometimes see people presenting their work and think ‘sh*t, wish I’d thought of that!’

What was the most difficult thing about the programme?

The timescale – fitting it all in was really challenging. Purely for the fact that I’ve always got ideas, but I need that time to think and figure out how I can get the most out of them, develop them – time for the penny to drop so to speak. Every week you present your creative ideas in front of the group, so at the least you want to present credible ideas – nobody wants to bomb!

What did you enjoy the most about it?

Seeing everyone as a group and getting to know everyone. It was a good bunch of people and the people often make it. So that, and getting lots of different opinions on your work.

Another great thing is the presenting and pitching side of it. It really makes you focus on presenting the raw idea and makes you think how to best tell the story, and over the weeks you can experiment, try different ways of pitching, and see what other people are doing and what works.

I always looked forward to the Monday lecture and briefing to gain insight from the creative directors (plus its great to have nosy at what all the offices are like!)

What was the most valuable thing you learnt whilst taking part?

To not discount any ideas – because it might be that there’s more in the idea than you think, and you just need to view the idea in a different way instead of ditching it. Often within the group there would be themes, the same core thought, but people had executed them differently. It teaches you to develop ideas, which in itself is a great skill to have.

Would you do it again?

Technically I can’t because I’ve already done it, but yes to something similar!

Ultimately School of Thought gets you hooked on big ideas! The value that creative thinking brings should never be underestimated. A similar programme is running exclusively for graduates this year for a few weeks, and then later in the year they’re running the industry one again. The prizes for each are really great.

The brief comes out about two weeks before so keep an eye out for it! It’s short notice – I entered two days before the deadline, spending about a week getting my entry together.

Would you recommend it to a colleague or friend?

Yes, I already have! I’d recommend it to any creative thinkers. It’s not always just people with creative job titles on the programme, there was a mix of people from a few different roles within the marketing industry.

Client: Chicago Town: Brief: Buy frozen pizza instead of takeaway – it’s cheaper too Idea: As a stunt we take over an ATM frequented by students. It’s the scenario of nipping out for some cash to get a takeaway, but on this occasion the cash machine actually lets you withdraw pizza instead.

Client: Babylon Health: Brief: Create awareness of Babylon’s digital health service. Idea: Guerrilla tactics; NHS appointment cards are overprinted and left in doctors waiting rooms and on pharmacy counters.­