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Does school really matter? In a result’s driven world, marketers don’t need to get A’s


Does school really matter? In a result’s driven world, marketers don’t need to get A’s


The school year has come to an end. As school leavers bring their weary bodies back from Schoolies and get summer jobs, the next big hurdle has come: school results. But what might seem like a momentous life moment will be soon forgotten, as your school results don’t really dictate the future.

Growing up, school results were everything. At high school in Brisbane, getting your OP (Overall Performance) was a huge day. After people received the fruits of their high school labour, landlines all over the country rang to find out if you had ‘beaten’ your mates. Our intelligence was being judged on a sliding scale, and then measured against our classmates. I struggled with the anxiety of getting summed up so easily. Had a bad year? Made a mistake? Weren’t cut out for traditional education? This didn’t matter, our results were reflected in one single number on a piece of paper.

This week, school leavers all over the country are receiving their final scores. Some will celebrate, while others commiserate. Parents will be disappointed, and people will lie about what the number really said – you don’t want to be perceived as ‘stupid’ surely?

The message today is one that has been said before, but bears repeating: these numbers mean nothing. Marketing and advertising isn’t brain surgery (although in some boardrooms, pitches are decimated more than a surgeon could ever imagine). Yet, high scores are expected to get into marketing, advertising, and journalism degrees. Someone will need to have once performed well in a maths’ class to be able to interpret creatively a brief about advertising Heinz Ketchup

Make it make sense!

Talking to creative director and consultant Jess Wheeler, it turns out that these scores mean absolutely nothing if you have dreams to create, to invent, to break the rules and push the boundaries. 

“The education system is rooted in the Industrial era, it’s designed to produce cogs,” says Wheeler.

“ATAR isn’t a general measure of ‘intelligence or creativity. It’s not someone’s value as an employee. It’s a measure of conformity and ability to memorise and regurgitate information,” he continues. 

Creativity isn’t learned in a classroom. It isn’t taught through the grind of traditional schooling. Someone with the best HSC score in the country won’t be able to crack a hard brief from a client, but perhaps the naughty kid at the back will be able to write an ad that stays with you for long after the product has left our shelves.

“Marketing and advertising is about breaking convention, bending rules, standing out. My entire school life I was told to sit in the corner and shut up. I was told to ‘stop being disruptive’. Now, that’s what I get paid to do,” Wheeler tells Marketing mag. 

So, the advice for those who cracked open that envelope (or is it a text these days?) and saw a number that didn’t reflect the career path they want to pursue, it doesn’t matter.

“If you didn’t get the ATAR you wanted, or what others told you that you needed, don’t worry about it. No one has ever given a sh*t about mine,” says Wheeler.


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Liv Croagh

Liv Croagh was the Managing Editor of Marketing Mag from September 2021 to September 2023.

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