School for slogans

21st July 1995 at 01:00
Need an advertising campaign but don't want to pay what the red braces and pony-tail brigade might charge?

Edinburgh's Stevenson College could have the answer. The further education college's arts and media department has two advertising agencies the only student-run agencies in the country according to lecturer Stuart Delves, who acts as their creative director.

Students doing an HNC in advertising, marketing and public relations apply at the start of the year for posts within the agencies, which take on real- life client commissions and see them through to execution.

"Advertising is such a practical trade," says student Ann Taylor, who this year has worked with the newer agency, called Ten-O-Nine. "There's a limit to what you can do in the classroom."

Students adopt the roles found in a real agency, with specialist production people, copy writers and artists, working for three hours a week as a team. Commissions tend to come from low-budget sources. This year, for example, Ten-O-Nine's work included a commission to produce posters for the Scottish Arts Council-backed "Readiscovery" campaign, promoting reading among further and higher education students.

"The research the students carried out indicated that books had to compete with a huge number of other leisure pursuits computer games and other hi-tech activities," says Stuart Delves. He reports that the research led to the development of visual themes presenting reading as an alternative "virtual reality". Hence some striking graphic imagery, backed up with a tone of voice, in the words of the creative brief, that's "contemporary, subtle and intriguing".

Currently, the Ten-O-Nine students are most proud of their work for the Scottish Joint Breastfeeding Initiative. The SJBI aims to raise the low rates of breastfeeding in Scotland and the agency's brief was to target younger mothers.

Nyree Jinnings worked on the campaign: "It was a huge challenge. We wanted to get away from the usual images soft pictures of mothers and babies. We felt younger women wanted to hear breastfeeding wouldn't mean being tied, and they could still have a social life."

The students learned about breastfeeding, and spent time in discussion, knocking ideas around. They were keen to "de-class" breastfeeding, and to avoid depicting obviously middle-class or working-class mothers and families. "We decided to make breast milk fashionable, in some way," says Ann Taylor.

The result is a collection of witty ideas that underline the benefits of breast milk, while presenting the often unknown fact that it can be refrigerated and then given to the baby by a sitter while mum goes out. One poster shows a label for "Liquid Gold" breast milk, modelled on the labels of "designer" lagers.

Presented to a conference of health professionals recently, the collection brought loud applause from an audience delighted to see usable materials that were light-hearted and sharp.

Working with the agencies is a great confidence booster, says Stuart Delves. "Even very talented students find getting a job after graduating is not easy, especially in Scotland, and most have to accept unpaid placements, rather than a job, at first." It also gives them something real for their portfolios, to increase their job prospects.

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