Published February 17th, 2016
by Steven Clark

Back in October, a tweet featuring a Glasgow Subway contest poster made the rounds:

In this contest, SPT were giving young students the chance to create a PSA animation about the dangers of consuming alcohol and rail travel. The stated prize includes exposure and a free year of Subway travel. Assuming there are probably some limitations on that free year of travel and looking at the costs of a Zonecard for a year, the cash worth of the prize is probably somewhere in the realms of £1,000 to £2,000.

I’m going to assume that this contest never happened as the URL on the poster now redirects back to the main SPT homepage and there’s nothing in the news about a student animation that stopped all public drunkenness at tube stations throughout Glasgow.

You’re probably thinking sense won out here. A public backlash by creative professionals meant SPT quietly buried the contest along with their ridiculous request that an inexperienced student studying towards a degree would somehow find the time and energy to create a presentable animation of significant length with little to no brief all for the sake of exposure and “the perfect chance to boost your portfolio!”

This is not an isolated incident. Organisations (and self important morons) all over the world regularly create “opportunities” for creatives to showcase their skills for exposure and students of creative arts are presented with opportunities like these more than most.

Why? Well even though businesses are wary of hiring inexperienced or ill-prepared students and graduates for actual money they still think they’re some sort of well of untapped potential. The attitude of Scottish professionals seems to be geared more towards exploiting creative talent instead of nurturing it.

Case in point, the IPA Student Advertising Awards.

I did stuff like this while at University. We were to pick one of the D&AD new blood briefs and develop an idea. I don’t think it’s unfair to say were painfully underprepared to tackle these kinds of briefs. Working mainly on small animation and graphic design projects with very few limitations set by lecturers who hadn’t been industry professionals for 5+ years, the idea of tackling something expected to have global appeal or change attitudes was a little too much to expect of us. Especially individually.

Similarly, the IPA Student Advertising Awards blurb highlights some pretty lofty goals stating:

“Not only will you be doing your bit to save the planet. Impress our panel of top industry professionals and you could win yourself a paid work placement at an IPA for Scotland agency.”

I’m assuming that “could” is in there to cushion them should no suitable candidate be found. IPA are at least offering a cash prize in the form of “up to £1000” which is, again, suitably vague. Also, call me cynical but I fail to see how advertising will be “doing your bit to save the planet”. Surely we could just not do anything and save a bunch of paper for something more important?

Perhaps the ideal future for agencies looking to hire is one in which they can pit students against each other Battle Royale style with weapons and objects on an isolated island, maybe offering an unpaid internship or a fiver to anyone who can survive the onslaught using nothing but a moleskine notebook.

The point of this rambling diatribe is this: start taking students seriously. If you want to set creative challenges for students offer them something tangible and finite, not maybe an internship, maybe a cash prize or useless exposure. Hire inexperienced juniors for actual money or salaries and don’t pawn your “this could be a cool idea but we don’t have a budget” work off to students who will stress themselves blind trying to understand all the flowery pretentious language in your briefs and brand guidelines that they’re not yet prepared for or accustomed to.

If the first experience students get of your industry involves being exploited for work and ideas, it’s no wonder creative industries businesses now need to hire recruiters just to find juniors.


For the sake of pretending I’m an actual journalist, I asked professional illustrator and animator Dave at Boxdog Inc what he’d quote for the above job and this is what he said:

“I would probably be looking for something in the region of £1500 – £2000. That would be for a more motion graphics approach – rather than any complex character animation.”

So SPT could have just done their research, coughed up the rough cash equivalent of their prize and hired a professional without any public backlash.

Note: This post originally appeared on the Habanero Digital blog meaning certain parts are probably weirdly self referential or talk about ongoing feuds that probably exist almost exclusively in the mind of the author.

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by Steven Clark

Steven is a designer/developer and wannabe intellectual with an obsessive personality and too much spare time. Don’t follow him on Twitter.

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