Five Lessons from my First Internship

This is the last thing I shall ever write from my (adopted) desk at my first internship at an advertising agency. Well, possibly. It’s only 11 a.m. But the melodrama is hard to resist.

The intern ladies of Firehouse, Summer 2013

In all seriousness, I’m really going to miss Firehouse. They’ve been welcoming and friendly, offering a perfect balance of advice and companionship. I’m so glad I had the chance to start my career here. I’ve learned a lot — about myself and about agency life. The things I’ve learned about myself, I’ll keep to myself, but I thought other students might like to hear some of the things I’ve learned about working in an agency. Especially as an intern.

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Ad Books: “Free Prize Inside” by Seth Godin

The first (and long-overdue) installment in my series of book reports is an ingenious marketing book by prolific author Seth Godin. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read all of his books, but I’ll certainly say I intend to. His writing is conversational, memorable, and easy to understand. He’s one of those rare writers who can be irreverent without being tacky.


This book is based on the idea that the easiest way to make a product (or service) more interesting is to provide a free prize. What’s a free prize? Godin equates the free prize to the cheap-o toy in the cereal box (the first edition of his book was even packaged in a cereal box). The free prize is that little bit of something that makes your product/service better than all the others.

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So you’re majoring in Advertising…

In case you guys haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a student, and, like most of my peers, I’ve been a student for the last 15 years of my life. I still have three semesters left before graduation, but this summer I was lucky enough to take my first step into “the real world,” for lack of a better term.
A favorite professor (and awesome mentor) of mine found out that the former owner of a national photography representing firm (e.g. HUGE STUFF HERE) was looking for an assistant for the summer to help her get her visual consulting business organized, and he tossed out my name. Melanie called me up and, well, I guess she liked me ’cause here we are, two months later and about three years wiser (at least on my part, that is).
Organizing photo shoots, talking to clients, going through Melanie’s old invoices, learning what it takes to run your own business, and frankly, just being around Melanie herself has taught me that I know next to nothing about the industry I’m going in to. Sure, I know some techniques and terms and I have good time management skills, but when it comes down to it, I understand why employers hesitate to hire kids fresh out of college. Sadly, that phrase used to be “fresh out of high school,” but that’s another can of worms entirely.
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The QR Code

Okay, let’s get one thing straight: QR codes are a hassle.

I’m not sure why people are slapping them all over the place. Posters, t-shirts, cars, books, wristbands, water bottles… they’re everywhere. And half of them lead the user to the a web address that’s printed within inches of the code. It’s annoying.
If there’s a webpage you want someone to go to, put that web address on there instead of a QR code. Web addresses stick in people’s minds, and then later that night when they’re at their computers, they’ll type in that web address and take a look. If you completely replace the web address with the QR code, you’re losing that entire audience. Only retired people have time to go around scanning QR codes for just a simple web page.
I know they look trendy and futuristic, but they’re a waste of space and a layout designer’s nightmare. A QR code is the easiest way to ruin a well-designed poster. But I have to concede, they aren’t all bad.

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