The ad world in Mumbai could soon see a big inclusive training initiative. London-based D&AD, the global association for creative advertising and design known for its Pencil awards, is exploring ways to bring its Shift programme to Mumbai. Shift is a free night school for aspiring creatives from underprivileged backgrounds that runs in five cities — London, New York, Sydney, Berlin, and Hamburg — and will soon be opening in Sao Paulo too.

At the recently concluded Goafest in Mumbai, where D&AD ran masterclasses for the attending ad and media folks, its CEO Jo Jackson told businessline, “We are having some really constructive conversations to bring Shift to Mumbai.”

Shift’s five-month intensive training course is hybrid and typically has 25 students. There are real-life briefs from brands that the students work on that give them a taste of work at ad agencies. At the end of the course, there is a portfolio showcase of the students’ work. “We are not like an official university, but we have a graduation and a portfolio session at the end that we take around to agencies, and a halo of support we provide to students,” says Jackson. 

“Seventy-four per cent of our students have been placed in agencies,” says Jackson, describing how one of Shift’s graduates came in as a spoken word poet. He honed his skills as copywriting and now works for Apple. Some other students are working at Spotify, and some are independent video directors.

The selection of the students is typically a two-month process that starts off with an online application. The teachers are a mix of D&AD and local mentors. “In current markets, it runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with some intensive sprints. But one size does not fit all for all countries,” asserts Jackson, saying it need not necessarily be a night school format in India. 

Veteran ad man Ramesh Narayan, who is part of advertising body IAA (International Advertising Association), says, “We at the IAA and AFAA (Asian Federation of Advertising Associations) are examining how to implement a variant of Shift in India and elsewhere in Asia. “

Said Narayan, “The ad world needs to show inclusivity in every way. Including creating opportunities for the less privileged amongst us. A couple of years ago, an editor of a web publication helped us place a few underprivileged students in advertising agencies as interns. They truly benefited from that. We even have a young cinematographer who has done assignments for Aamir Khan, who started off as the son of a peanut seller in Colaba Market. It was because film producer Pradeep Guha agreed to get him a free slot in Whistling Woods that his entire life changed.” 

He described how the Advertising Council of India sponsors six young professionals for the AFAA Fast Track programme in Malaysia by paying all their expenses. “There is a need to include one underprivileged professional in this as well,” he stressed.

Jackson says that it works both ways. If agencies have under-represented talent, the diversity improves the work. It is a win-win for both, she says.

Narayan adds, “The Advertising Council of India is having its second AFAA New Age Leadership Programme for Young Professionals, which is conducted free of charge. This was pioneered last year. One young professional from an underprivileged background was included last year. And the wonderful thing is that he is giving back to society already.”