Cold Calling in Minneapolis: Fallon Launches 'Winternship'

Shop Recasts Long, Dark Winters Into a Selling Point

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Fallon winterns with Chief Creative Officer Jeff Kling, front row, center.
Fallon winterns with Chief Creative Officer Jeff Kling, front row, center.

The wanted sign posted in the middle of the Southern California desert had a list of unappealing prospects.

"For Winter. Foul weather. Long hours. Inclement everything. Shifting expectations. Vague feedback. Uneven praise," the sign said. "High risk of snow blindness, pneumonia, frostbite, cabin fever, weight gain," it continued.

Anyone from Minnesota knows the brutal winters aren't a selling point when attracting talent to Minneapolis. But this pitch posted by Publicis Groupe's Fallon aims to recast what many see as a huge drawback -- the long, dark winter months -- into a selling point to show would-be talent that if fun can be had during a Minnesota winter, it can be had all year.

The shop for the first time is hosting eight "winterns" as part of an eight-week program. Since mid-January the group has been sharing two apartments -- sharing bedrooms, even -- and engaging in a variety of activities perfect for the long, cold winter months: the Polar Plunge, ice fishing, curling and boot hockey, among other things. (Boot hockey, for the uninitiated, entails playing hockey without ice skates and using a ball instead of a puck.) The activities aren't limited to wintern participation: Chief Creative Officer Jeff Kling takes part in almost every event.

The agency will continue to host summer interns but felt a winter internship program would better depict life in Minnesota. "Winter is a big part of who we are," said Julie McBride, director-talent and communications. "The winterns right now are experiencing all that comes with the coldest and darkest months of our year."

To find candidates, Fallon posted wanted signs in unlikely places, like the desert, Florida, Texas and New York -- sometimes near a commercial shoot or a college campus. The agency also promoted the program on its social-media channels.

Ultimately, Fallon received hundreds of résumés from around the country. And while the program is open to people of all ages, most of the current winterns are in their 20s and looking to make a career in advertising. One candidate had been pursuing a career in law in Washington, D.C.

Ms. McBride said the most creative applicants were selected for the program. One sent a package titled "winter survival kit" that included homemade spiced wine and snacks. That wintern, Ms. McBride said, has been hired full-time. "Regardless of what role they play at the agency, every candidate needs to be creatively driven, and their submissions needed to reflect that," she said.

Fallon outfitted all eight winterns with winter gear, including heavy-duty coats, boots and gloves. Aside from all of the outdoor activities, the group is handling duties more typical of an agency internship in the creative, production and account management departments.

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