Ash Billinghay

10 December 2015

The rising price of possibilities

Bank cardThere are a number of things I am willing to pay for. My sins? Sure. A decent cup of tea? Absolutely. But an opportunity? That’s where I’ll close my wallet.

Sadly, it seems, opportunity is now beginning to cost.

This morning Mother, that big, shiny London ad agency that produces all those big, shiny ads, decided to give with one hand and take firmly away with the other.

With the giving hand it was doing something lovely – donating a sizeable chunk of money to charity and making the lives of suffering children better.

With the taking hand, however, it was being a ****. In order to raise that money it was charging graduates for the chance of a placement within its walls. Yeah, that’s right, it was charging for a chance.

To be in with just a shot of a placement you had to donate to the Mother Placement Charity Raffle, with a minimum of £10 being accepted. This donation guaranteed you nothing other than your name going into a hat. Did it get you a book crit? No. Did it get you a pat on the back? No.

At the time of writing Mother have received 26 donations, so for 24 hard working creatives it definitely did not guarantee you the opportunity you so desperately craved.

But why is this such a problem? Why did it lead to me shouting the words, “You’ve got to be f*****g kidding me?” when I first saw the tweet?

Well, for starters, Mother are appealing to an audience that themselves are suffering. Yes, on the scale of creative graduates and starving children, the graduates have it pretty good. But compared to the rest of the UK they’re already struggling more than enough. London rental prices are the highest they’ve ever been – over £1000 a month could only secure you a bedsit in some areas – and for many they’ll by now be very used to working for free late into the night.

It’s a terrible situation to be in. Unless you get lucky, the chances are you’ll be fighting a losing battle in your bid to get a look in at an agency of any size, let alone the big ones. It’s not just a rat race; it’s a room full of rats all scrapping over one rotting carcass.

But it’s more than just the money side of things that causes concern here. £10 isn’t a lot, and going £10 further into that already heavy overdraft isn’t going to look too bad compared to all your other outgoings.

My main issue is the nerve, the absolute audacity, and the complete moral wrongness to suggest that in order to get a chance at the small window of opportunity that a placement offers, you should be expected to exchange cash.

The London creative scene already has a reputation as a place that you can only thrive in if you have the funds to back you. If family or friends already live in London, you get a head start. If someone you know can afford to send you there, you’re sitting pretty.

But for the rest of us, those who aren’t lucky enough to have an in, what chance do we have now to make it in the capital’s shining lights?

Even after working my way up to a mid-weight copywriting position, I still couldn’t afford London prices. Even after filling my portfolio with some international clients, I’d still be up against hundreds of others with a similar CV for one position if I ever moved down south.

For such an opportunity you’re already paying with a decent standard of living, you’re already sacrificing regular comforts, and you’re definitely sacrificing more than enough in terms of your finances.

Now, it seems, you’ll be adding an extra £10 on top of that. Good luck.


What do you think?

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Brodie King

December 11, 2015 at 12:17pm

As a copywriter who has done the placement circuit and luckily now has a job, I am shocked. Once you get into a creative department in London all anyone talks about is the need for diversity. ‘We don’t need any more middle-class male teams.’ is heard regularly. One can assume Mother doesn’t think like this because how are they going to get diverse talent when they’re making people pay? Only those they don’t want more of will be able to.

Maybe the Creative Directors could give a fraction of their meaty salaries and sponsor a grad for a month placement. Let’s create our own ‘Save the Creative Interns’ charity shall we?