Intern hard at work alone

How To Make A Mark As A Creative Intern

A very cool intern just starting out in a big global hot shop ad agency in the USA sent me a message asking for any tips on how to succeed in a big agency as a creative intern. The first step at succeeding is doing exactly what he did – ask advice and be humble enough to know there is much to learn. I love this attitude and felt he deserved some time. I look forward to working with him when he’s the next hot Executive Creative Director, although let’s get crawling before running.  I wondered if others might appreciate the thoughts too, so I’m adding them here as my top ten tips:

  1. Don’t be too ambitious at first and be focused on serving them and not serving yourself
  2. Think ahead to solve problems and come up with ideas even if not asked, and use it to get feedback as you go. Like at school we all think it is about the outcome or test results, and little did we know that you can hand in papers a week early and get feedback to make it better by the due date. Most people don’t remember that. It is about the process in a big agency as much anything. They are not so concerned with the ‘big idea’ as they are with the culture fit and you being malleable, eager to learn and actually taking direction and growing from it
  3. Even though you may have amazing creative skills there is a hierarchy and a process that agencies follow and any training you have done becomes pretty much invisible. Expect to be valuable in the most simple of ways – even getting the coffee, photocopying, doing a presentation board or pulling together a storyboard for someone else. Appreciate that for more than what it is – it is not a menial task but an opportunity to spy on what everyone else is doing. Look for the structure of what they do and log it in your brain for another day. People forget that it isn’t just about whether you have great ideas but can you handle the relationships, the business workflow and meeting commitments consistently?
  4. Think bigger than the ideas – this is about relationships. Listen to the agency and the clients and find out what they really need and solve their problems.
  5. Never forget the strategy – get that right first and the ideas are easier, and they work harder for the client. Effectiveness wins over creativity, but creativity is essential to supporting effectiveness.
  6. Respect your elders – the senior creatives are often misunderstood. They are performing at the top of their game and usually offer ideas that work. It is not about being the next groovy thing, but being effective. Don’t judge their grey hair for being out of touch – that is unlikely the case. Learn from them and respect their experience and tap into it any chance you can. They are also the masters at managing the client relationships which is crucial.
  7. Learn how to present your work so that the clients understand you and see ‘what’s in it for them’. Check out the 4Mat system developed in 1980 by Bernice McCarthy, a world leading expert in learning, and you will connect with all thinking styles and personality types, defined as four core types noted below in this graphic. This format (4Mat) is designed to tap into both left and right brain thinking and all stages of the learning cycle defined as Experiencing, Conceptualising, Applying and Refining. You can use this for copy strategy too. In a nutshell, it is only 5 simple steps and must be in this order:

Purpose – understand the purpose of the presentation or copy and spell it out clearly
Why? Why does the reader or listener need to listen to you? What benefit is it to them?
What? What is the the product you are selling? What is the process or what is it about?
How? How does it work? Use case studies and examples to support this? How does the execution or tactical work support the overall objective of the ‘Why?’ above
What If/Else? What could go wrong and how will you counter it? What objections could there be and how do you overcome them? Is there something else that would make a difference?

4 Mat overview
8. Care about your clients – they are doing their best. If they are asking for something or reject something they either have a good reason or don’t understand it.

9. Run tissue paper ideas past people first before going to heaps of effort to fully mock it up and you wont waste time you don’t need to.

10. Ask a lot of questions – for feedback on what can be done better, what you need to do better, and ask people around you why they do what they do or why they said what they did.

If you’d like a presentation to your agency or marketing department on this please contact Anne Miles here.