Lessons from the FAME Portfolio School: Your Idea is Your Baby

Tina was a student at FAME–the Famous Academy of Modern Effectiveness–a free, selective portfolio school by Grey Group & FindSpark. Students of FAME are ambitious creatives with no advertising experience who were selected to learn from and be mentored by top creatives at Grey Group.

I didn’t know what to expect coming into FAME’s pilot class. The closest experience I had to gauge from was the Advertising Campaigns class I took my senior year at NYU, where students worked in groups to develop two separate month-long campaigns. FAME was a whole new beast — each week, I had to think of a totally new idea, from scratch and by myself. Though we were free to work with our classmates, my full-time job timeline (managing content production from a team of 11 interns, and figuring out how to meaningfully wrap up a six-year-long brand) made that impossible to juggle. The timing wasn’t ideal, but I couldn’t let myself pass this opportunity. These eight weeks were a non-stop cycle of grueling creative sprints — good and bad, exhausting and exhilarating. I’m both glad to be done, and I already miss it.

At the beginning of the program, I volunteered to recap class five, a number I picked randomly out of a list. Luckily, this turned out to be my favorite class apart from the final presentations. Instead of the usual industry guest speakers, our instructor Rob had a presentation of himself about feedback and criticism. Some of my key takeaways:

  • Your idea is your baby, so it’s understandable you’ll be protective of it. Just don’t smother it in the process.
  • In any creative pursuit, you can take the feedback or you can leave. There’s no point in staying — and no shame in leaving — if you’re not open to new ideas.
  • We should be hard on the ideas, but easy on the people. Be mindful about your words when you’re offering feedback, and don’t take it personally when you’re receiving it.
  • Your own biggest critic has to be you. Don’t beat yourself over your shortcomings — a self-martyr is neither productive nor interesting — but keep pushing yourself to do new things. Failure is just part of the process.

These were thoughts and philosophies already aligned to mine (and instilled in me by a great office culture), but articulated in brand new, memorable, and effective ways. They’re lessons I’m still learning as a person, as a student, as a boss.

Later in the class we presented our “break the beauty category” campaigns. Being a more innovation-minded brief, we got some crazy interesting and fresh ideas that were later expanded to be presented in the final class (including my own). My pitch that week was Feel Yourself, a love letter to the ritual of makeup and skincare as forms of self-care. After a couple of weeks of tweaking with the help of my mentors, this was the video that made it to my final presentation:

On top of my work schedule, while conceiving this campaign (plus shooting and editing the video, creating and giving my presentation), I had a terrible, six-packs-of-tissues-a-day kind of cold. I pushed myself hard because I loved and believed in my concept, and now I’m thrilled and proud of the result.

As hard as I worked on this, it never would’ve happened on my own — without the course being put together by Grey and FindSpark; without Rob, Meghan, and Katherine guiding me through my idea; without my classmates inspiring me each week; without my friends helping produce my video. I’m so grateful to have been given this space and opportunity to be a student again; to showcase my skills and creativity; to bounce ideas off of a wonderful group of people, and hopefully make long-lasting connections.

Great things happen when people come together. Here’s to more of that.

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