Reverberations from the shock closure of the Watford Ad School have been rippling through social media, with past and present students and staff sharing their experiences of the adland talent incubator.
News of the school’s demise was perfectly summed up by ex-program leader Tony Cullingham, who took to Twitter to voice sadness but no regret for his time at the helm of the creative hotbed north of London.
In an emotional send-off, Cullingham wrote: “If I had the chance to do it all over again, guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing.”
His words resonated with many past and present students, with Zane Radcliffe, executive creative director at McCann Bristol, among those to share the professional and personal success found from attending the one-year course – the first to condense everything needed for a career in advertising in one class.
Thank you, Tony. I literally wouldn’t be where I am today, or have met my wife of 26 years, or have travelled the world at others’ expense, or have found my vocation, without you. While under your tutelage, I became a Watford FC fan. So I guess you’re not perfect.
— Zane Radcliffe (@zanewrites) September 11, 2021
Radcliffe’s experience was far from unique, with Aidan McClure, founding partner and chief creative officer of Wonderhood Studios, joining the chorus of reminiscences, with a recollection of some underhand tactics to secure a coveted place at Watford.
I wrote 28 letters pretending to be the Queen to get on this course. It was the Oxbridge of advertising. A brilliant career changing year. Thank you Tony and best of luck with what’s next.
— Aidan J. McClure (@AidanjMcClure) September 10, 2021
Sadly, strength of feeling alone was not sufficient to keep the doors open, with the ad school blaming a lack of students for its untimely demise. Cullingham lamented: “Few students this year. Too few to be viable. Money pours into ad programs and in-house creative incubators. It’s clear that I am in the wrong place and I need to be where the students are.”
The cryptic sign-off gives few clues as to Cullingham’s future plans, with change likely to be a wrench after heading up the £4k course for the past 30 years.
In its heyday the Watford Advertising Course stood as an island of practical coursework in an increasingly digital world, which would ultimately spell the end for a near-mythic seat of learning.