Balance the Scales

Originally published on LinkedIn in February, 2023.

$30,009,833. That’s the average Cannes Lions submission fee this year multiplied by the total number of submissions last year.

This isn’t a rant about award shows though. This is a potential solution to the diversity problem the ad industry is having.

The financial gatekeeping expensive ad schools create prevents large numbers of financial disadvantaged creatives from accessing the same resources as other, more fortunate students.

So, what if Agencies subsidized ad schools with some of the money they are using for award shows? Or what if the award shows paid an “industry tax” that gave the money to the schools?

It seems to work for state lotteries.

Ever since agencies decided they didn’t want to put in the resources to properly train juniors, ad schools have become the best way to get into the industry. However, students can shell out upwards of $40k to attend 16-24 month programs that give them best shot at getting into the A-List agencies.

I’ve seen ECD’s post here to celebrate when they FINALLY pay off their student loans from portfolio school. ECD’s.

For lower income creatives, this creates an artificial barrier to entry. Take on debt that will control your life for the next 5-20 years (if you’re lucky), or find another job that won’t leave you financially burdened well into your 40’s or 50’s. 

I’m not even saying we should be giving full scholarships. I think we should subsidize the schools. Simply have the industry share the cost of educating their future workers. 

If entry level doesn’t actually mean entry level anymore, then this is the first step towards equalizing opportunity for everyone.

How does it work? Well, if we start with the big three shows at 5%, I’d estimate we are talking no less than $3 million to distribute amongst schools every year.

Imagine the effect that could have opening doors to the industry for everyone.

Additionally, every time an agency enters an award show they can feel like they are doing more to help solve the problem since more entries means more scholarships. 

I know something like this would take way more planning and thought than I’ve put into it on a Wednesday morning. But it’s a start. And maybe if we start talking about it, agencies will start talking about it which will make the award shows start talking about it.

I also know nothing happens at all unless we start having that conversation. And hey, I’m sure there’s a way they can make those donations tax deductable.

– Josh D. Weiss is a Co-Founder of The Side Show and Freelance Associate Creative Director

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