MRM Lures Interns With a Real World: Madison Avenue Experience

Agency Hopes Free Rent Will Attract Better Talent

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- MTV's "The Real World" may be in its 24th season, but MRM Worldwide has just taken a page from the reality-TV show's book in the hopes of luring hot young graduates to its agency.

After six months of living rent free, the most talented intern(s) will be placed for full-time employment.
After six months of living rent free, the most talented intern(s) will be placed for full-time employment.
The Interpublic Group of Cos.' digital shop handpicked five top students from portfolio schools for an internship program it's dubbing "The Apartment," in which the youngsters work for MRM while living in a loft apartment for six-months totally rent-free.

For a few interns starting out in the business, the three-bedroom apartment -- fully furnished by Ikea and CB2 -- is nothing to sneeze at; amenities include a flat-screen TV and free cable, and a large outdoor deck fully equipped with barbecue equipment, overlooking the Manhattan skyline (the apartment is actually in Brooklyn).

Through December, the five graduates will live, commute and work together on global accounts. They are: Chase Domergue, Samantha Weintraub, Will Dimondi, Jacki Dodd and Daniel Benor, who range from ages 21 to 27 and studied user-experience design, interactive communications and copywriting at places like the Miami Ad School and University of Delaware.

At the end of the six months, the most talented intern(s) will be placed for full-time employment.

According to MRM Exec VP-Managing Director Corey Mitchell, the impetus for the program was the frustration that "nine times out of ten, the very best candidates would line up against the name brands like Wieden & Kennedy and Goodby Silverstein Partners." It's a preference he chalks up to two things: one, a stigma about the cost of living in the Big Apple on low internship salaries; and more importantly, "we don't have the magnetic attraction that Wieden and Goodby do, and we're working on that," Mr. Mitchell said. "We thought of this as a way to get them to try us out -- and they did."

So what do the interns have to do in exchange? In addition to working on client business, they'll be expected to chronicle their experiences via Twitter, blogs and videos. The videos will be used to market "The Apartment" among the young creative community. (You can follow them at theapartment.posterous.com and @MRMers).

The three-bedroom apartment is fully furnished by Ikea and CB2.
The three-bedroom apartment is fully furnished by Ikea and CB2.
Come December, that group of five will rotate out, and MRM will bring in a new crop of grads from disciplines such as analytics, planning and search.

The proposition is clearly not a small investment, and the agency isn't funding it on its own.

"These guys are billable, they are there working on our current clients," said Mr. Mitchell. Those clients include Microsoft, Exxon, Mastercard and Diageo, all of which he says are "enthusiastic" about it. "Our Captain Morgan client is looking for the cutting edge, drinking-age youth point of view and a way of talking to their target ," Mr. Mitchell said. "These guys coming through don't have preconceived notions of what media works, and they'll articulate it physically or digitally."

One thing that the house won't have? Wall-to-wall cameras offering 24-hour surveillance. Said Mr. Mitchell: "We looked into it, but legally we were advised we shouldn't do it. But we're still looking into it ... to have last night's escapades streaming in the reception area [at MRM] ... it'd be cool."

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