“They’re given no opportunity” How Western Sydney Ad School is driving diversity in the industry

Rocky Ranallo and Western Sydney Ad School students - 11 Jan

“In the Western Suburbs, students aren’t really into advertising.”

Awareness and accessibility are some of the greatest barriers to entry in the advertising industry, according to Rocky Ranallo, creative director and head of school at Western Sydney Ad School.

This was the driving force behind the move to bolster Western Sydney Ad School’s offering with an online course.  Now in its third Semester, the course has been well-received across the booming region, which has the fastest-growing population in NSW and one of the fastest-growing in the country. 

Despite its booming opportunities, the region’s diverse population (35% of Western Sydney’s population were born overseas) remains drastically unrepresented in the advertising industry. A fact Ranallo, whose forty-year career is marked by award-winning tenures as deputy creative director and creative director at The Campaign Palace, DDB, Clemenger/BBDO and BWM/Dentsu,  has set out to change. 

The advertising industry has historically attracted (and arguably over-indexed in) members from Sydney’s more affluent Eastern and Northern Suburbs. Ranallo founded Western Sydney Ad School in an effort to tap into the underrepresented talent from Sydney West and non-metro areas by offering courses that were incomparably more affordable and attainable than other options available to this demographic. 

“I wanted to give them one more string in the bow to make it easier for them to get into the industry, because of this lack of knowledge about advertising,” said Ranallo.

He explained, “In the Western Suburbs, students aren’t really into advertising.”

“They don’t have connections in agencies as everybody else does in the Eastern Suburbs and in the North Shore. They’re not pushed in that direction, so they’re given no opportunity really to learn about advertising.”

“My school is a lot cheaper, it’s about a third of the price of any advertising school, there’s no entry criteria, which means anyone can join [and] I’ve moved it to Parramatta to make it easier for them to join.”

“I’m able to fill up the class every three months (the duration of a semester), which is terrific. The same with design with the online course,” said Ranallo.

Rocky Ranallo and son Joe Ranallo at AWARD

Rocky Ranallo (R) and son Joe Ranallo (L) at AWARD. Joe holds ‘Best In Show’ award.

It comes as the advertising industry continues to talk about the need to foster greater representation and diversity across its businesses.  

See also: ACA: Advertising industry needs to focus on retention and senior diverse talent

Remarkably, the online course has seen Western Sydney Ad School’s mission go even further than could be predicted. “I’ve had inquiries from people from Tibet, Western Australia, and Malaysia.”

“I do get other students from other parts of Sydney,” he mentioned, insisting his passion and priority still lies primarily in supporting his students from the Western Suburbs.

Commenting on the significance of opportunities that level the playing field such as Western Sydney Ad School, Ranallo moved, “It’s a way of getting more diverse thinking.”

From his perspective, the outlook is optimistic: “I get a lot of support from all the agencies and in Sydney CBD; the big agencies: DDB, Group M, and all those guys; because that’s what they want as well.”

See also: GroupM wins Allianz global media account with Wavemaker appointed locally

“They see my school and my course as a pathway to getting to these people,” he noted, adding, “So I’ve got to make sure that the standard is up to scratch.”

As for what the students will walk away with, Ranallo contended, “It’s not about creativity, it’s about ideas.” 

“I don’t teach about how to put things together or craft. I teach how to come up with ideas, because ideas are the core of creativity.”

“You still need a human brain to come up with ideas.”

Top Image: Rocky Ranallo (L) and Western Sydney Ad School students

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