Internship SMACKDOWN!: Week 1

“Think of this as a ten week job interview”, Mike Hayward is telling us. “And the interview started five minutes ago.”

Mike Hayward and Kurt Reifschneider, our instructors, are going over the class, and what will be expected of us (hint: a lot). Judging by this intro, I expect to hear the work fuck a lot over the next ten weeks. I expect we’ll watch a lot of YouTube videos. Basically, our ideas will be judged on three things:

  1. Is it intrusive? Make them stop in their tracks, and beg to be experienced?
  2. Is it relevant? Does it relate to the product, or is it cool for cool’s sake?
  3. Is it unique? If I’ve seen it before, it’s out. You know that feeling you get when you come up with a really great idea? The one that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up because it’s that fucking good? That’s what I’m shooting for. Every week.

At this point, I start eyeballing the other students in the room, and start to daydream that I’ve stumbled into some kind of Bravo competition show. I don’t see any leggy hostesses, and as of yet, nobody’s gotten drunk and thrown a vase at someone’s head.  

And with that, we’re off to our first in-class assignment!

Describe who you are, and why you’re here…in 140 characters or less.

Great, Twitter. I immediately start trying to think of the amazingly witty thing I used in class last year, but my mind has gone completely blank. I jot down some boringly obvious stuff being a “design ninja”, and some rambling about kickball, but none of those felt particularly great. Time is running out, and I reach back into the depths of my brain and swing for the fences…

Black art director looking to break into lily white ad world. 

It got a laugh from the room, so I felt pretty good about it. After all, if my studies have shown anything, guys like me are few and far between in this industry. And the few of us in the industry only seem get to work on selling stuff to other black folks, but that’s a blog topic for another day. 

For our next in-class assignment, we’re going to take a product, and come up with a non-traditional campaign idea for it. And then we’ll take the best of those ideas, and collaborate to make that idea better. They ask us for ideas for the product. Someone throws out Radio Flyer wagons. Someone else suggests BP. As in British Petroleum. As in the company responsible for making the gulf coast look like the hair of the cast of Jersey Shore. 

Guess which one we picked? Yup.

I was fairly certain everyone was going to go with a response campaign for the spill, so I thought I’d go in a different direction, and tackle the other thing everyone hates about gas: the prices. Here’s what I jotted down in my notebook:

Getting gas used to be a social experience. You’d clean your windows, chat with your neighbor, buy a cup of coffee. Now, with gas soaring near four bucks a gallon, the pleasantries have ended. Our eyes are now focused on the pump, watching every last penny roll into our tanks. Nobody likes to buy gas, but everyone HAS to buy gas. Let’s make that a little more enjoyable. Let’s take your mind off the gas.

The pitch was that by doing the little things-upgrading the interiors of stores, bringing back (complementary) full service, offering free coffee and such, that we could create an environment that people want to come to, as opposed to grudgingly going to. 

Everyone presented their ideas, then Kurt and Mike ducked out of the room to determine the winner. There was a nervous energy in the room. I started to wonder if slapping the possibility of an internship right on the front door was the best idea. The girl siting next to me asked me for help, because she was clearly struggling, and I briefly hesitated to help her, because I didn’t want her to get a leg up on me. This defeats the purpose of a classroom environment. I did wind up giving her some help with her idea, and I reminded myself not to get too competitive, because nothing good is going to come from that. 

Kurt and Mike returned, and they pointed out a couple of ideas that were solid. My idea was picked as one of the successful ones, though they had concern that the execution would be a little difficult in practice. I probably needed to flesh out the idea a little bit more, I think. The winner was Arnie Franke’s idea of BP “refueling stations”, where BP goes to places and shows that everything in our lives needs refueling, not just our car. Brilliant idea, really, and it was indeed better than mine.

We were then tasked to fine tune this idea, with Arnie leading the group. As a group, I felt we worked well together, if a little unfocused. We weren’t shouting over each other, nor fighting to be heard…although I became increasingly aware that I was talking a lot, and didn’t want to dominate the conversation. After fifteen minutes, we managed to beat the original idea into a pretty savvy execution of that original idea. Our idea was that we would create BP-branded refueling stations in areas you wouldn’t expect, like a mobile zen garden, a taco truck, or a rest stop on a marathon course. Kurt and Mike liked our ideas, and even tossed out some ideas that helped to tighten the execution a bit.. It was a great first exercise, and I hope these types of activities are the norm. 

We’re given our homework assignment, and sent on our way. I ask for everyone’s emails, because I want to try and reach out to my classmates so that we can work together outside of class. Having other people around to bounce ideas off, and make everyone’s ideas better is what I think we should be striving for. I’m hoping that everyone else feels the same way. 

Next week, on Internship SMACKDOWN~!: We go over our first homework assignments. Will the harsh light of criticism spell glory or defeat for our hero? Also, I try and pull everyone together outside of class. And I juggle working and homework for the first time in ten years. 

Posted via email from Black Art Director | Comment »