How Agency Interns Spent Their Summer Vacations

Students Across the Country Engaged in Endeavors From Incubating Ideas for GE to Branding People With 'Social Tattoos'

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One of the most critical challenges adland faces today is building interest in the business of advertising among a younger generation of talent. A key way to attract them to the workforce is via internships, and the industry boasts several robust programs that offer students a chance to cut their teeth at a first-rate company while also beefing up their creds on resumes. We spoke to five shops in different areas of the marketing world to find out what interns did this summer, and we were pretty impressed. If we can convert these interns into full-time staff down the road, the future of the ad business will no doubt be very bright.

Agency: Hunter PR, public relations and events shop
Who: Sue Byun, 22 ; Joe Clarkson, 21; Jamie Rubinstein, 20; Kimberly Caro, 21; Kristen Nicolai, 20
Schools: Boston College, Ohio Northern University, University of Michigan, Hofstra University, Boston College

About the program: Hunter PR's internship program was first launched in 1990, and has since grown significantly. In addition to a summer internship (for which they received more than 600 applicants this year), they also offer spring and fall opportunities. The program is designed to teach interns how to create a campaign for a client -- identifying the company's audience, brainstorming, researching, strategizing and, finally, presenting.

What they did: This summer, interns addressed an important question: What's the best way to reach college students and through what medium do students receive the most information and messages? In addition to compiling a "media audit" with the required data, the interns also put together a "Day in the Life of a College Student" presentation. To get comprehensive data, the team created up a survey consisting of multiple choice questions as well as open-ended questions and distributed it through email and various social-media channels. They received responses from about 220 students and compiled their report.

Joe Clarkson said that it became clear through their research that newspapers are becoming a thing of the past and that students mostly get their information online and from social-media channels. They also found an "overwhelming" number of respondents pointing to CNN as being their most trustworthy source of news. They also concluded that students are most receptive to news and messages when they're commuting from Point A to Point B -- "in between classes, going to practice, going to a meeting" is when they're checking their cellphones the most, whether it's for texting or social media, said Clarkson.

Their research also underscored that Twitter is not as popular with students as one might think. "Not everyone is tapped into social media fully," said Clarkson. "Everyone talks so much about Twitter, but actually more people use Facebook. As PR practitioners, Twitter is the go-to for us, but that 's not the same for everyone."

Agency: BBH Barn, a Publicis Groupe -backed creative agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Who: Haywood Watkins III, 23; Jennifer Huang, 21; Stephanie Krivitzky, 22
Schools: VCU Brandcenter; University of Texas, Austin; Syracuse University alum

About the program: BBH Barn had six interns working for them this summer. The group was divided into two teams dubbed and each team member had a role -- organizer, strategist or creative. Together, they were tasked to create a project by the end of the summer with the brief to "change perception famously."

What they did: One of the trios came up with an idea they dubbed "social tattoo." Said Haywood Watkins: "We wanted to focus heavily on the 'change perception' part of the brief, and wanted to do something altruistic -- something we would be passionate about throughout the summer, and feel good about when we were done." As he and his team tossed out ideas, they realized that there were many important world events that had been covered briefly by news outlets and paid attention to by people for just a short span, that had all but disappeared from consciousness.

"At times of crisis, humans push for humanity," Mr. Watkins said. "For example, after 9/11, New Yorkers were found to be more close-knit and helpful to each other. So we wondered -- how could we make that feeling permanent, and hold on to that empathy instead of letting it come and go? And when we think permanent, we think tattoos."

So Watkins and his team took to Twitter and chose a long list of trending topics they wanted to bring back to people's consciousness. Some of the topics were Egypt, Haiti, Michael Jackson, Japan, Norway, the Somalia famine, Katrina, AIDS and Casey Anthony. Using the hashtag #socialtattoo and handle @social_tattoo, they got people to vote for each tattoo by choosing their favorite out of four trending topics, for a total of five tattoos. The topics that won out at the end were: Human Trafficking, Haiti, Poverty, Norway and Japan.

They also put out a request on Craigslist asking for volunteers to get a tattoo in memory of these issues, with the caveat that the volunteer would not know which tattoo he or she would be receiving.

"This isn't about telling your life story. This is about showing that even at the lowest level of connection, someone who wasn't directly affected by the event still cares. It's about keeping hope alive -- knowing that someone halfway around the world has a tattoo for you."

One of their volunteers, Mary Cabrera (or MC, as she's known) is the new head of HR for BBH, and got a tattoo about Japan. Her kids asked her about the tattoo when she got home. "They didn't know about Japan," said Watkins. "So they asked her and everyone she comes in contact with forever is going to ask."

The local tattoo shop they worked with on the project, Sacred Tattoo, allowed them to have a pop-up gallery in the shop, with pictures of each of the tattoos, and information about the person, the cause, and what you can do to help. According to Watkins, word about the project is still spreading due to passers-by who pop in to see the gallery, and among the tattoo community. He said they've been getting emails from people wanting to participate, from as far as Brazil and Australia. "Now we could have a real movement."

Agency: OMD, one of Omnicom Group's media agency networks.
Who: Ari Winkleman, 21
School: Drexel University

About the program: GE and OMD partnered to create the "Innovation Incubator" program, a digital-media idea lab that encourages young entrepreneurs to develop their own startup ideas and also work on digital-media and marketing solutions for GE and OMD. A dozen students are chosen for this program from about 200 applicants from schools such as MIT, Stanford and Drexel. The 10-week program ends with a presentation to the top executives at GE and OMD, including GE CMO Beth Comstock. All participants receive a stipend, but the winning presentation will walk away with the big prize -- $10,000.

What he did: Ari Winkleman, a senior at Drexel in Philadelphia, developed a blog called "Involvio" for college campuses that contained information on all the club meetings and events taking place on a given day.

"When I was a freshman at Drexel, I just wanted to do everything but could never figure out when Club X was meeting or where Club Y was meeting," he said. "The problem we're solving is that of those big walls you seen on campus covered in posters and fliers -- it's very inefficient and some of the posters are old and the events are over. So I came up with this blog for all the presidents of these clubs to post their information to."

When Winkleman heard about the GE/OMD Incubator, he thought it would be the perfect platform to develop this nascent project and turn it into something he could spread to other schools across the U.S.

The Involvio team consists of six members, two of whom are at the Incubator this summer. "When we applied, we were just finishing our prototype," he said. "Over the course of the program, we developed our beta. The social media and digital directors helped us figure out how to develop it. We're going to launch at 50 schools across the country, which we narrowed down based on research on the school's student groups, student population, geographical location etc."

The OMD research department also made them think harder about their target audience. They concluded that , contrary to the belief that college students are a spontaneous bunch, "millennials are actually the biggest planners and comparison shoppers."

Agency: The BrandLab at Minneapolis-based indie agency Olson
Who: Chloe Flanagan and Jamir Hopson, both 16
Where from: South Education Center Alternative and FAIR School Downtown

About the program: Olson created a nonprofit organization in 2007-2008 called The BrandLab to attract students from various socioeconomic backgrounds to the marketing and advertising industry, in the hopes of combating the industry's lack of diversity. Created by John Olson, chairman and founder of Olson, the curriculum is implemented in various high schools throughout the Twin Cities area. Select students from the program are chosen to intern at various agencies in the area over the summer. Ellen Walthour, director of the program, said that they were keen to bring the marketing/advertising curriculum to high schools where students are interested in such fields but are not aware that a career can be made of it. "They can't ask for a job that they don't know exists," she said. At the end of the class, students are given the opportunity to apply for internships at various agencies, where they are placed after an interview, based on their interests. This year, The BrandLab has placed 23 students at different agencies across the Twin Cities.

What they did: Two of the interns worked at Olson to create a brochure for young kids and teens, which the recruiting department plans to share with potential Minneapolis transplants who have kids. "No one wants to uproot at the age of 13," said Walthour. "So we got our young interns to put together a packet of cool things to do around here -- what they think is cool, not what we think is cool."

Ms. Flanagan and Mr. Hopson compiled a list of places to visit, "besides the usual Mall of America and theme parks." Among them were the Wild Rumpus book store for young kids, and events such as the Vans Warped Tour, and a hip-hop music festival. "As a teen, you just kind of know about this stuff," said Ms. Flanagan. She worked chiefly on the brainstorming and research, while Mr. Hopson designed the booklet.

Another project they worked on was a "Social Media 101" packet, consisting of information on different agencies and their social-media tactics, and their comparison with Olson's social-media strategy. They educated the agency on what competitors were doing, and put together a suggested group of 25 to 30 apps and social-media sites the company should get up to speed on.

Agency: Via Agency, indie creative agency in Portland, Maine
Who: Stephen Hebson, 21
School: Brown University

What he did: In addition to social-media efforts, Mr. Hebson was a key factor in reevaluating the agency's website. Via's website was revamped in July, and work started on it long before he arrived at the agency. But through his analytics research, he found "strange results on what was popular and what wasn't." The website has a scroll-down format with important information on clients and case studies at the top, and things like information on the city of Portland, where the agency is based, at the bottom. With this format, Mr. Hebson realized, case studies weren't being reviewed as much as they were before the revamp, and other than the homepage, the information on Portland was most popular. So he did some tests based on his finds and redesigned the website to make the navigation links on the side larger, and is in the process of changing the layout to "feature the content we really want people to see."

He also worked to propose a panel for the South by Southwest Interactive festival (SXSWi) based on research he was doing for his thesis [on the role of Experts and Social Media on Taste Formation] at Brown. At SXSWi, Hebson will be on a panel that explores how experts influence the decisions we make. "Our cultural consumption is based on what reviewers, magazines and other experts tell us. They determine what car we buy, what music we listen to. And I thought maybe people aren't reading consumer reports anymore ... now they're reading Yelp!" he said.

He began researching the role of experts on consumers' tastes for his thesis, and used the information to develop his pitch for the panel. To get accepted, contestants must go through a "Panel Picker Process" which consists 30% of online voting, and 70% of votes by the SXSWi staff and advisory board. Mr. Hebson is excited about the panel because "it's an amazing opportunity to work with Via's top executive team and PR people, and also to meet people from all sorts of creative industries at the festival." Mr. Hebson was initially hired to work as an intern until the end of August, but will now be continuing his work for the agency, part-time, from Brown University.

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