Bachelor of Law and co-founder of AJF Partnership advertising agency
Andrew Foote walked away from university with a parchment, but gained something even more valuable… a business partner.
One of Australia’s leading advertising agencies was born out of one bloke listening to another bloke’s advice.
Co-founder of AJF Partnership, Andrew Foote, was just like many other 17 year olds when he stepped onto the University of Adelaide campus for the first time.
He yearned for a university education but wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for a career.
For Andrew, it was a combination of what he learnt and who he met at university that led him to a fruitful career as an ad man.
“Adam Francis, my creative partner for 23-odd years, I knew him before I got into advertising, while I was still at Adelaide Uni pursuing something completely different,” says Andrew, leaning back in his boardroom chair in the AJF Partnership offices.
“He encouraged me after I’d finished at uni that advertising was something I could look at.”
Prior to that, Andrew had no concept that advertising was a thing he could do. But he loved the jingles and the copywriting – he could recite word-for-word most ads on television.
This natural ability is what Adam encouraged Andrew to pursue, and it’s responsible for the quick transition Andrew managed to make from law to the ad industry.
To this day, Andrew is deeply immersed in the creative process. It’s just that now, AJF Partnership look after some of the biggest brands in Australia: Holden, Officeworks, Farmers Union and Target, to name a few.
Andrew speaks fondly of Officeworks, an account he leads.
The skills to run national and international campaigns weren’t developed in Andrew’s childhood, which was spent in a modest home in the suburb of West Beach.
Nor does Andrew feel that his high school years helped his development in this area. At school Andrew found he had a homogenised experience where he mostly met people who looked and thought the same way he did.
“If you go to a high school somewhere, the people you’re with are probably from a similar background in a lot of ways, depending on whether that’s a socio-economic thing or if it’s a cultural or an ethnic thing,” says Andrew.
It was Andrew’s experience at the University of Adelaide that changed his understanding of how people think and how to engage with them effectively.
And advertising is all about empathy and understanding.
Without debating the merit of his ideas in tutorials with people of different cultures, experiences and world views, who knows how well Andrew would have gone in an industry that requires a deep understanding of demographics and consumer behavior.
Critical thinking, rhetoric and reasoning as well as the social aspect of the university provided Andrew with the necessary context to make his decision to forgo a career in law and step confidently into the creative field of advertising.
“I think it’s absurd trying to get a 16-17 year-old kid to try and work out what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives,” says Andrew.
So, those who don’t know what they want to do for a career when they start university, are in very good company.
When you get to uni, all of a sudden you’re mixing with a whole bunch of people from very different backgrounds. I think that’s really important for people. I think that expands the mind, it expands their horizons, it gives rise to empathy – it can only be a valuable thing.
I’m like a lot of people who got into advertising through different avenues. I’m not the only one who did a Law degree and then didn’t go on to become a lawyer.