BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- When Procter & Gamble Co. launched a summer internship program called FAST in 1997, the interns' projects helped spawn a widely publicized summit on interactive marketing that the company hosted in Cincinnati less than a year later.
FAST the internship has continued these dozen years since as an exercise for an elite corps of P&G summer interns, albeit more quietly. But it resurfaced publicly recently, on the brightest, shiniest manifestations of interactive marketing today: Facebook and Twitter.
Since the program is open to only about 30 interns among the hundreds already working for P&G in Cincinnati this summer, it seemed odd for P&G to market the program publicly in these venues. Indeed, it turns out the P&G employee who started the Twitter account and Facebook page "didn't realize they would be public," a spokeswoman said.
Not that there's anything to hide, but P&G did take down the Facebook page last week. The company didn't lock the Twitter account, though, and the description of the FAST program on the company website remains open to the public. The site happens to make internship at P&G look pretty fun and important, as a video highlights interns presenting their ideas to the likes of outgoing President-Global Business Units Susan Arnold and a host of other high-ranking P&G executives.
The name FAST originated with former P&G interactive brand manager Pete Blackshaw, now exec VP at Nielsen Online, as an acronym for "Future of Advertising Summer Interns" (the T part isn't immediately obvious, but such is the license accorded makers of P&G acronyms).
Focus on marketing challenges
The program always was multifunctional, i.e., never limited to marketing interns. But it's tended to focus heavily on marketing challenges. Three of the four projects in year one -- presented to then-Chairman-CEO John Pepper -- were on interactive marketing. And they helped lead Mr. Blackshaw to push for the FAST Summit, where the acronym morphed into Future of Advertising Stakeholders.
The "flashback" section of the FAST intern program on PG.com is a veritable time capsule of hot P&G marketing topics since then, including "The Threat of Dot-Coms and How Can We Compete," in 2000; "Making P&G a Leader in the Beauty Industry," in 2002; "Unleashing the Power of Social Networking," in 2007; and a focus on sustainability and cause-marketing messages last year -- when interns helped develop programs for Pur's Children's Safe Drinking Water program.
There is no word yet on this year's program, which kicks off June 5, but something to do with the recession is not an outlandish guess.
While P&G didn't really mean to use social media to advertise FAST this year, its employees increasingly are encouraged to use Facebook's Come Work With Me application on their pages, spokeswoman Kate DiCarlo said. "There haven't been any internal communications here at P&G telling people formally, 'You can do this,'" she said. "But if you want to you can." So far, about 500 have done so, she said.