This year the School of Communication Arts has suffered record losses to the tune of £200,000, leading its founder to take out loans to keep it afloat. Its dean, Marc Lewis, has taken aim at agencies that he claims have “shoplifted” talent and refused to help.
This isn’t the first time the School of Communication Arts (SCA) has been in dire straits. Founded by John Gillard in 1985, the school wouldn’t make it past the next decade “because agencies abused“ it, according to its dean Marc Lewis.
While adland contributed to the school’s demise in the 1990s, driven by a burning desire to offer something better than the traditional university model, in 2010 Lewis managed to persuade the advertising industry to back him in reinventing it.
11 years later and SCA has awarded over 100 scholarships. It is the most awarded ad school in the world, where 80% of its alumni land their dream role within six months of graduation. And now it is almost at the point of closure.
In an op-ed published in The Drum, Lewis took aim at agencies that he claims have “shoplifted“ talent and refused to help.
“Don’t get me wrong. Take our brilliant students and launch them into glorious careers,“ he insists. “They deserve a diverse pool of employers as launchpads. Just step up and put something back into the pot when they create value for you, or when you realize that you’ve taken nearly 40 of them.“
SCA survives by dedicated sponsors, both on agency and brand side. Without their support, the school wouldn’t be able to offer scholarships and bursaries that ensure its model is accessible to everyone, not just the financially-privileged few.
With less sponsor support and agencies failing to support the school, Lewis has had to borrow £300,000 just “so we could keep making great work, extending this school year and last so our students weren’t too disadvantaged by Covid-19”. And at times when the school couldn’t afford to pay for housing for the scholarship students, “they lived at mine,” Lewis admits. “Whatever it takes to bring great and diverse talent in.”
In the face of adversity, Lewis isn’t giving up. He’s determined that the school will not close again like it did in the 1990s. And so, with support from The Drum, Lewis is asking agencies to give back and support the school financially.
“If your agency is full of SCA talent (most of the great ones are) and you haven’t contributed to our survival, then you are playing a part in our downfall,“ he asserts, urging those to “please get in touch“.
“If you ask any of our sponsors, they will tell you that they get more than 10 times the return on their investment with us,“ Lewis insists. “If you ask us, we will show you how. If you are spending any money on training or freelancers, it’s very, very easy to do the right thing.“