Agency CDs mentor young ad talent at Portfolio Night

An aspiring creative presents his work

The Chicago Portfolio School and Razorfish joined forces last week to establish the Windy City as one of 24 locales around the world to host the 12th annual Portfolio Night, an evening of creative reviews held in select advertising agencies from Austin, Texas, to Tokyo, Japan.

Chicago Portfolio Night took place throughout Razorfish’s offices in the Merchandise Mart, with 50 creative directors hunkered down in separate locations. Among them were DDB’s Marnie Vosper, Energy BBDO’s Zac Rybacki, Leo Burnett’s Pablo Jimenez, JWT’s Dan Bruce, Razorfish’s Murti Ali, VSA’s Kelly Bjork and Y&R’s Adam Cook.

From 5 to 10 p.m.  the CDs reviewed and critiqued the work of 86  aspiring young creatives during approximately 15 minute individual sessions.

“I used to think it was all about being clever, like just having fun, catchy lines,” said Molly Stapleton, a copywriting student at the Chicago Portfolio School (CPS). 

“But the best campaigns are really meaningful, like when you see something and you’re like, ‘oh my god I totally agree with that.’” 

As with many of the evening’s attendees, her presentation was sharpened with help from the industry veterans who populate the teaching staffs of programs dedicated to advertising.

“The creative reviews generated three internship offers on the spot and countless interviews were set up,” notes Christine Barrett, CPS director of learning, who has more than a decade of producing and recruiting for Chiat/ay, Wieden & Kennedy and Leo Burnett. 

“We tell the students to have at least three campaigns ready to show,” she says. “To be able to explain their concept clearly and talk about the choices they’ve made.” 

The CPS program puts students through “countless reviews with their instructors” in the course of its year-long term. The practice helps them avoid a common mistake that Barrett has seen a number of young creatives make during portfolio reviews: “When the nerves get the best of you,” Barrett says, “you start talking too much.”

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