Mentor Health

When you leave college will you continue your advertising education? If so, how?

I was a bit of a nerdy autodidact, who read The Copy Book a disturbing number of times and spent many Saturday afternoons reading D&ADs in that library at the bottom of Leicester Square. But I was also lucky enough to work at AMV BBDO, which contained many great creatives that I could learn from. I remember showing my work to David Abbott, Peter Souter, Paul Brazier, John Gorse, Malcolm Duffy, Paul Belford, Nigel Roberts, Dave Dye, Sean Doyle, Mary Wear (I can’t be arsed to keep typing this list; it goes on forever), and having it improve enormously as a consequence. But I had to want to do that; I had to seek out the advice. It would have been easier not to bother, but I’d never have got into the D&AD Annual that way.

A step beyond that wish to learn from one’s superiors was the use/creation of a mentor.

The most successful younger creatives at AMV latched themselves, limpet-like, onto one particular shit-hot creative and did not let go. (One particular AD went so far as to emulate as closely as possible the clothes, beard and car of his hero.) I remember when we heard the news that Paul Belford and Nigel Roberts were on their way: you could almost smell the superglue being applied as the ADs waited at the door to attach themselves to Paul and the writers to Nigel.

But that had to be a two-way street; the mentors had to agree, whether explicitly or not, to spend the time improving the mentees. If the requisite effort and improvement were not apparent then the mentor thing would simply not materialise. Would the junior cross the line from merely being the subject of some occasional creative direction to actually become a great creative’s protégé? It was interesting to watch.

Anyway, I wonder if such a situation exists today. Are there enough great teachers and willing learners? If not, what will that do to the chain of knowledge? Will it be broken forever or will people find other methods by which to swashbuckle their way to excellence?

And what’s the mentor situation like in your office?

Oh, and if you want to name a great mentor or two, go ahead. They should all get the gallons of credit they deserve.

UPDATE: apologies, I have neglected to mention any mentors of my own. Oddly, when I was a youngster I never felt as if I had a specific mentor, so much as lots of great CDs. But since I left Lunar I’ve found a few people to be sort of mentor-friends, who helped me see where I should head, sometimes in advertising, sometimes outside it. Without going into specific details I’ve found a lot of inspiration from knowing Dave Trott, Mark Denton, Dave Dye, Peter Souter and Paul Belford.

Shame there are no women or racial minorities on that list, but white men are just fantastic, aren’t they/we?