Life in an advertising agency: Chronicles of an intern planner

There shouldn’t actually be such a thing as an intern planner. Giving a kid with no advertising experience, nor real understanding of the client, the task of planning an ad campaign is completely ridiculous, if you think about it.

Nevertheless, I am one. Working for Arnold Amsterdam as an intern in the planning “department”, which consists of two people: the head of strategy and the head of global strategy. And I have to say, I’m not doing too awful of a  job. Not that I’m involved with campaigns of any real importance, but still.

I had no idea what planning actually was when I stepped into Arnold for the first time. It turned out that it’s a lot like writing essays. You get a topic – sell this new pen – and you dive into research, sifting through trends and blogs and consumer reviews and opinions, twisting the information around in your mind until you hit on the lightbulb idea. And the idea becomes your “thesis” – the key insight of the creative brief, around which you create a story interesting enough to hook the customers and (almost more importantly) the creative team. You hand over the brief to the creatives and hope they make from it a fantastic ad.

Well, that’s the simple story. In reality there is so much more back-and-forth with the client, getting permissions, rewriting, adjusting, and defending your idea to the death. But that’s the basic gist. It’s really fun.

Actually though, what I wanted to write about was “the creatives”. The guys that come up with the actual ads – headlines, images, scripts, storyboards — and a related group called “production”, who then take over from the creatives to make/draw/shoot the actual ad.

At the beginning of my internship, I was terrified of these people. They ran around the office in Guns N Roses t-shirts making fun of each other and loudly complaining over anything they felt like, playing weird music and generally not thinking in a linear fashion.

In my many years in academia and admin jobs, I got way too used to thinking in a linear fashion. So I was truly terrified to talk to them, afraid I would be too boring, or say something stupid, or they would say something I wouldn’t understand and I wouldn’t know what to say.

Then I had a meeting with a project manager, part of whose job it is to make sure that the creatives get their jobs done and make it to their meetings on time. I asked her “how do you deal with the creatives?” She paused, and then said, “I think they’re quite misunderstood, actually. They’re not any harder to work with than other people.”

And then, partially through chance seating arrangements, partially through my own intiative, I started branching out a little and actually talking to “creatives” and “producers”. And I felt like the weird kid (that I was in high school) discovering the theater club for the first time.

They are great. They are so awesome. They are hilarious, they have razor sharp wit and intelligence, and always have an amazingly unique view of every situation. And none of them are scary, and I truly believe everyone needs more creatives in their lives.

Yes, I still get scared sometimes when talking to them. I say stupid, linear shit. They laugh at me. It’s forgotten in two seconds. They say things that are so out of left field that I can’t even begin to find a response. And all of it makes life infinitely more interesting.


About Varia

Traveler, writer.
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