Canfield describes Balser’s contributions to the program as “100 pounds of gasoline thrown on a match.” In addition to a decade on the creative side at agencies like Ogilvy and Publicis, Balser has spent the past 18 years as a program director at the Creative Circus, mentoring nearly 2,000 marketers who have gone on to top-tier gigs at agencies like Droga5, TBWA\Chiat\Day, BBDO New York and GS&P.
“The opportunity here is an agency that's committed to doing this in a way that allows us to meet the students where they are, meet the agency where they are and the industry where it is,” Balser said. “So, it's an opportunity to redefine what a junior or student portfolio looks like, to really look towards the present and the future versus looking at the way things have always been done. It's a thrilling opportunity to be able to do that.”
But the team isn’t just trying to build portfolios for a small cohort of future ad workers — it's trying to repair a tear they see in the industry. As agencies and clients recognize the need to give voice to representation, marketing schools aren’t keeping up with the demands of the industry, according to Canfield. The Academy at GS&P is what he and Balser hope is the beginning of an abundance of accessible learning opportunities for creatives from other big agencies.
Balser recalled his days working for Fuji Film and described how not a single company meeting passed without mention of its rival, Kodak. He says the same mindset is present in advertising schools: competitive scorn for peers. Balser and Canfield want the opposite for their new wave of training.
“We want to change education. I want more schools like [The Academy] to happen. I think this is a model of what the future of advertising education should look like,” Balser said. “To me, honestly, this is the beginning of an evolution."
Canfield added that “the school is our little attempt at trying to help make the industry better.”
Applications for The Academy at GS&P are available now on the program’s website. The school will open its doors to its first class in February 2022.