The unproven guide to keeping your intern entertained during the summer.

The first hardest job in advertising is effectively demonstrating your abilities in a space larger than a sheet of resume paper and a 45 minute interview. The subject of how to parlay an internship into a profession has been beaten to death by blogs everywhere. Admittedly, I have found myself dumping my “wisdom” on a worldpress document for the for those who are one step behind me in life to learn from.

But no one talks about the second hardest job in advertising. Once the glitz and glam of being the account baby living life on a wing and an “aw shucks, mister” prayer, you will find out quickly that you bear a responsibility to your generation to prove that you have your life together, and in such way that you can help other’s figure out theirs.

It’s called “Having an intern” and it combines the turmoil of parenthood, professionalism and being able to justify why the hell you do the things you do. When you think about it, it’s quite nerve racking for a job you have nothing to lose on. While nobody is going to get mad if you accidentally steer your intern into a lifetime of drug addiction and loneliness, your LinkedIn endorsements won’t be as robust as your coworkers’.

So alas, I will give you a few tidbits from my experience with having interns. While I am too young to really tell over a long timeline whether or not my experience providing has really affected people, I can tell they may have enjoyed their time by not looking too visibly bored.

At the time of writing this article, I have worked at my agency for 15 months and sired 2 interns. One was a recent college graduate who had his heart set on being a copywriter and the other was some high school kid who job shadowed at the agency for a week. I’ve also taught a class of middle schoolers for 3 months about advertising,so if the upcoming turns out to be a list bad advice, I apologize in advance.

1: Give them daily advertising challenges

“Yo (name of intern). Hypothetical situation: Let’s say you were a high profile serial killer about to be given the electric chair. While they are strapping you down, a newspaper reporter asks, ‘Your execution will be on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. Do you have any requests on what the headline will read?’ What will you say?”

“What up, dawg? Let’s say you are the marketer for a romantic comedy film starring Nicholas Cage. Throughout the whole movie, Nicholas cage does not do any action scenes nor speak louder than a conversational manner. None of the other actors are above the D List, so the poster will only have a picture of Nick Cage looking casual in a white shirt and a smile on his face. What would you title the movie so that it doesn’t alienate the romantic comedy fans or the Nick Cage fans.”

“(name of intern), (name of intern), banana rama fo f(name of intern minus first letter). Let’s say you were in a job interview and the interviewer holds up a picture from facebook of you passed out drunk in a bath tub with vomit and sharpie over your face. How will you explain the photo and impress the interviewer at the same time?”

The daily advertising challenge is great because it will keep even the most attention deficit disordered college kid entertained long enough for you to get your important work done while challenging them at the same time. Think of this as your own version of the Google job interview question that catches the kids off guard and gets them in the habit of thinking outside the box. I’ve heard doing stuff like “thinking out of the box” can help you be successful.

In case you were wondering, the newspaper headline for me would simply read, “Clark Sparks.”

2. Put them on a new business pitch

One of the drawbacks of most internships in advertising is that they are a little too short to really see a client ad campaign progress from a lowly marketing brief and turn into a raging, hormonal monster hell-bent on getting certain people to think differently about the way they are brushing their teeth. On a new business pitch on the other hand, the timelines are much shorter and a young person gets a chance to see all the facets of the business play out in front of their eyes. And while the learning curve is steep for people unfamiliar with the industry going in, they can easily come out telling the world they had a tangible role in making creative magic happen.

The beauty of a new business pitch is that it gives the kids something of their own to work on that’s separate from what they are learning from you. It’s called “diffusion of responsibility” and it’s a beautiful thing.

3. Give them their own projects to own

Admittedly, this should be pretty obvious. However, one of the pitfalls of a lot of internships is the work the kids are doing can’t really be taken out of the office and shown to a third party. While we should protect sensitive business information by limiting how much secrets the kid gets to take home with him, they will look like rock stars in their first job interview when they can slap the thing they did when working for you onto the table with a smug look on their face. Extra points if requires them to carry a brief case around with them to hold.

The point here is to give them an experience to take with them. If that’s too much work, make them eat weird food they haven’t eaten before

4. Try to romantically hook them up with other interns.

Alternatively, organize a World Cup tournament between the best soccer nations in the world and have the games broadcast during working hours. Works like a charm.

5. Get them actively involved with the stuff you’re working on

Because, you know, you were there too not too long before and it’s nice to have a second opinion on the work you’re doing, especially when you are still learning yourself. And in turn, both of you will combine forces and cook up summer in the winter.

Having an intern is a very Diet Coke alternative to having a kid. From what I’ve heard, one of the coolest things about having kids is that they will point things out to you that you’ve overlooked for years. Interns have the same way with the small things. Things like how you always put the logo in certain places and how the coffee machine always dispenses enough coffee into the cups to leave room for the milk will be reminded to you once again. And for a brief few minutes, you remember what you thought about the first time you got into the job you love.


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