An Ad School Just Opened Inside a Chatbot. Is It Any Good?

Creatives from BBH, R/GA and Leo Burnett join forces to democratize ad education

Advertising school is expensive. Not that advertising is especially fickle, but even if you’re looking to fly without a degree, you’ll still have to figure out a few basics—compiling a portfolio, say, or understanding which awards are actually worth pursuing in a creative career.

Thankfully, we have bots now.

Bot Ad School (or BAS for short) is the labor of Daniel Liakh of BBH London, Kostia Liakhov and Kate Harrison of R/GA Sydney, and Sam Cable of Leo Burnett Sydney. (The agencies themselves are not involved in the project.) Best experienced via mobile, the bot provides a crash course in everything from portfolio building and website creation help to information on awards (including student ones) and making the most of an ad internship.

All in just seven bite-sized chapters, stuffed with GIFs.

“BAS is made for any person who asks themselves the question, ‘How can I become a creative in an advertising agency?'” Liakh explains to AdFreak. “We have been researching these types of people and have discovered four main archetypes”—those who discovered their ad course is actually a marketing course, those on the client side who are “intrigued by those mystical creatives,” people who can’t attend ad school for whatever reason, and youths who use the internet to learn more about their career of choice.

The fourth type is the most common (surprise!). “These people typically ask questions like, ‘What awards I can enter as a junior/student?’, ‘What are cool portfolios I can look at for inspiration?’ and ‘How can I make sure my work ends up on Adweek?'” Liakh quips. (I guess their advice is solid.)

The case study below summarizes BAS’s capacities. It’s set to a delightful retro rendition of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”

“We used the wisdom and expertise of creatives from all over the world to build BAS, from an ECD in South Korea to an ad school founder in Germany. We distilled their knowledge to create the best personalized experience for our students,” Liakh goes on.

“We used every piece of information we were ever told by our tutors, peers, mentors and creative directors. We’re forever grateful to all these people. That’s why you will find books they wrote, resources they’ve created, or even their portfolios featured on the bot.”

For a sense of what to expect, in all its glorious brevity and relevance, here’s some advice from BAS on portfolio building.

Hopefully you didn’t need a chatbot to tell you that, though.

One setback: BAS doesn’t really get free-type demands, so it’s best to use the button menu. Still, the latter is sufficient to pull out what you’re looking for, and Liakhov believes it’s a “stepping stone into education system disruption”—one whose chapters are apparently tailored to skillset and geographical region. (How that works in practice is unclear, but hey, Facebook already knows whether you’re likely to move, and how much alcohol you drink, so maybe it also knows about your four-year stint as an underappreciated freelance art director.)

“Today we live in a global world where ad folk can easily change countries and continents. But the truth is, every market has a very distinct and unique culture—what’s considered a creative way to apply for a job in the USA might be considered arrogant in Asia,” Cable says.

“We personally crafted briefs, portfolios, awards, recruiters, market insights and a huge library of useful resources for those wanting to work in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., the E.U., Asia, America or Canada. Essentially we have created a global toolkit to help them score their first job anywhere in the world.”

He also assures us that “BAS is being updated regularly! In the 24 hours since we’ve launched, users have already engaged with BAS. And every minute they spend on the bot, using the natural language processing algorithm (NLP), we learn how to make their experience better.”

BAS’s first-ever course is available for free, suggesting future courses will be paid. “We believe there’s not only a future for this kind of education, but there’s a reality today,” Liakhov says. “We learned most of our skills online, and there’s really no reason why you can’t gain any skill this way, especially in humanitarian subjects. We call this exciting and fascinating phenomenon ‘education system disruption.’”

Facebook’s Messenger chatbot feature has already seen enormous experimentation, particularly in advertising. This year alone, Omnicom created a chatbot to avail data and analytics tools to its network of agencies. A Cannes Lions chatbot exists to help you get over—or simply avoid—hangovers. In advance of Game of Thrones’ past season première, GoTBot caught fans up on the show’s elaborate plotline. And as a precursor to BAS, one copywriter created EliBot … to handle her own job interviews. (There’s a lesson for you.)

As for whether or not human interaction matters in this whole affair? “When our students engage with BAS, they know they’re engaging with a bot. This bot will always be there for them, regardless of time of day or timezone,” Liakhov says. “There’s no replacement for human interaction in education, but BAS can definitely help facilitate it. Another thing BAS does fantastically is interact with those who may not have access to ad schools and experienced tutors due to location, finance, or disability/illness.”

BAS is mostly being promoted via word-of-mouth, influencers and social—the great triumvirate of budgetless advertising. Miami Ad School apparently also offered to share it with students and recent graduates.

“Currently BAS only offers expertise in Australia/New Zealand, the U.K., the E.U., Asia and USA/Canadian markets,” Liakhov tells us. “We will be extending to Russia and South America once we collect the data from our international contacts. We will also be adding other advertising professions to the bot such as strategy, design, production and account management.”

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