Barn participants

BBH expands creative placement scheme The Barn

The agency refreshed The Barn programme last year with the appointment of Tony Cullingham

By Creative Salon

BBH London is expanding The Barn, its creative placement scheme, which it refreshed last year with the appointment of Tony Cullingham, former programme leader of the Watford Advertising Course. The Barn is part of BBH’s ongoing commitment to finding and supporting the next generation of creative talent in the UK and opening up the advertising industry (and client briefs) to more diverse voices and experiences. 

Cullingham promises “more students, more noise, more briefs and more fun!” for the next intake.

The Barn refresh was initiated by BBH’s ECD Helen Rhodes in 2021, to give people without any industry experience a gateway opportunity for a career in advertising, while removing traditional barriers to entry to the industry. 

After the first Boot Camp semester, the group worked on BBH brands – both live briefs and other opportunities. Over the months that followed, students pitched in regularly with experienced creatives from Apple to Channel 4. The final module helped individuals and teams to develop their portfolios and provided tips on securing a job. Two of the graduates will be joining BBH permanently as a creative team. 

As part of The Barn, BBH partners with organisations including Hidden, Media Trust and Creative Mentorship Network, who have an extensive network of young people looking for opportunities in the creative industries. Its selection process is based on interviews and creative tasks devised to choose the candidates, with a focus on ethnic, gender and socio-economic diversity.

Helen Rhodes, ECD, BBH said: “Tony and I had high hopes for the revamped Barn but were prepared for all outcomes. Had it all gone south, at least he had his pension to fall back on and I’d always fancied giving landscape gardening a try. Luckily for us, nurturing creative talent is in BBH’s DNA and this first crop of students have all been absolutely amazing, bringing limitless energy and creativity into the agency on a daily basis. We’re looking forward to taking what we’ve learnt and building on this for year two’s ‘Barn: Bigger, Badder’ sequel.”

For The Barn’s second year under Cullingham’s leadership, intake will increase from eight to 10 students who will join the scheme in November, and the 2023 Barn students will be more active on live client briefs and pitches. Unlike traditional advertising schools, the course is free to attend, and candidates will be paid. Applications for the full-time 10-month course open this week, with a deadline of July 22.

Commenting on the past year, Cullingham says: “The Barn is not a finishing school. It’s a starter school. A starter school for diverse kids from interesting backgrounds. Some of them had tried to get into other ad schools but hadn’t been successful. Some of the students had never written an ad before last November. And it all worked out beautifully.

“After months of febrile energy, the teams have decent folios. They now know who Helmut Krone is. And they contribute regularly to BBH’s brands with shiny chestnuts. I’ve yet to convince them to read The Sun every day, but I’m working on it. For our second year, The Barn will be bigger, tighter, quicker. More students. More noise. More fun. And the students will be sharper than Adele’s top F.”

Simran Sidhu, a 2021/2 graduate, says: “One of the best and most inspiring things I’ve learnt by being in Barn is that creativity takes so many shapes and sizes. And Tony is such a great guy to harness whatever form that may take. He nurtures creativity and it’s really given me confidence to just go out and try things, explore the inner workings of my head and be fearless with ideas.”

Summarising their top learning from the course, Jordan Waters, also from the 2021/2 intake, observes: “No great in advertising was born great at advertising. It’s not talent, it’s practice. Don’t take feedback personally - learn from it and move on. Don’t just write ads. And, always be watching, reading, or doing something.”

Commenting on how she would like to change the industry, Eleanor Wilkinson says: “I believe that the industry should be more inclusive. It should open its doors to people from diverse backgrounds who have varied, and perhaps richer, lived experiences. These fresh perspectives would allow advertising to speak to a larger number of people and make a wider audience feel heard.”

Agency leaders will participate in a special graduation on 31 August for the current cohort, whose course ends in August.

In addition to the Barn programme, BBH provides a vital platform for underrepresented and unsigned creators through its ongoing Unsigned initiative, and through Differently Does It, the film competition launched this year, the agency born in telling stories through film, is unearthing and funding more diverse voices in filmmaking from around the world. 

Click here for more information.


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