Nick Gill headshot

Be Born in Nick Gill's Barn

The former BBH ECD and current leader of The Barn on what he's looking for from the next intake to his creative course

By jeremy lee

Nick Gill is sitting alone in the suitably messy space ("It's kind of like one of my kids' bedrooms," he says) in BBH's offices where students to The Barn - the agency's educational course - hone their craft. His students, he explains, are away on a variety of different creative endeavours.

"We've got people at Heathrow Airport handing out apology cards to Spanish tourists, apologising for the bad publicity British tourists have got. We've got some in Soho trying to convince people to get nicotine patches for dogs which is no more dumb an idea than people leaving their fag butts all over the ground," he explains. Others are distributing loo rolls to show how much sewage is being pumped into the Thames by Thames Water.

Gill is in bouncy form - a notable transformation from someone who had a reputation as something of an Eeyore while ECD at BBH. He's now an irrepressible Tigger. His new gig, training the next cohort of creatives, clearly suits him, despite taking over running The Barn in the saddest of circumstances when Tony Cullingham, formerly and famously tutor of the Watford course, died suddenly last year. A picture of Cullingham - a friend of Gill's - is among the many items hanging on the wall of The Barn, among the students artwork.

Applications are now open for the next 10 students to join the scheme, which as well as offering training under the tuition of one of Britain's most talented and awarded creative directors and his network, includes placements at top London agencies and also a decent £28,000 salary.

Those lucky enough to get on the eight-month course will also get help finding work once their studies are complete - with BBH offering jobs to the best. This will be the first cohort that Gill will pick himself - the previous class being Cullingham's choice.

Gill' Expectations

So what's Gill after? Well, he's set a five-part copy test which aspiring creatives will be required to answer:

  • Explain the benefits of having a slug as a pet

  • What French town would you be twinned with and why?

  • What would you like to be reincarnated as and how would it make you a better pianist?

  • You see a sign on the back of a truck that says 'How's my driving?'. There's a phone number, you ring it, what do you say?

  • Perform a diss track aimed at self-service checkouts

He continues: "I've said in my tips to keep your ideas simple, use as few words as possible, use any medium from posters to TikTok... and resist the urge to explain your ideas or tell me why you've done them. Feel free to vary the tone - silly and serious are both legitimate - and try to base your ideas on relevant insights and truths and try to stand out."

After a shortlisting process, the second round will consist of interviews at BBH where they'll be given quick turnaround advertising briefs and, most importantly, a chance for Gill to get to know them. Then the lucky ones can enrol on the course, which starts in September.

Previous students include Aishah Siddique and Marlon Rees, who were given junior creative roles at BBH and helped dream up Paddy Power’s 'Ballon D’Art' spot, and Katy David and Simran Sidhu, who created the most recent Tesco Mobile campaign.

Other former graduates have gone on to find roles at companies including Lucky Generals, Mother and Channel 4’s in-house agency 4Creative. The Barn course has also received support from rival agencies equally keen to honour Cullingham's legacy.

A Passion Point For Gill

The course - or boot camp - is very much in the mould of Cullingham's (although Gill is quick to point out that in no way does he consider him a pedagogue or his direct replacement). Putting him in the role was the brainchild of BBH's current ECD Helen Rhodes, who had trained under Cullingham and had put a deck together which Gill could use as a framework - albeit with his own additions.

It's become his passion, and Gill spends eight months a year running The Barn for BBH (and indeed the wider industry) and the other four months working on his own personal projects.

It's the sort of work ethic that Gill is looking for from prospective students. "I like people who come in and want to work or want to work hard, and when they're submitting ideas I'm not particularly looking for craft - I just want people who think in different ways. That's what gets me excited," he says. And he genuinely looks excited at the prospect at more people messing up The Barn.

Applications to become one of Gill's students at The Barn can be made here.

The deadline is June 28.


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