Agency Life 101: An Intern’s Perspective

Imaan Virani interned at The T1 Agency in the summer of 2016 on the AIR MILES and Ontario’s Lottery & Gaming (OLG) accounts. She is currently in her third year at Queen’s Smith School of Business.

A career in advertising has always seemed really exciting. With stories from Mad Men and articles from Marketing Mag citing the work of top-tier agencies, I’ve always felt that people in advertising have the greatest opportunity to be edgy, creative and bold with their work. I saw agencies as the organizations responsible for the “aha” moments behind brand campaigns.

Suffice it to say that I was thrilled with the opportunity to intern in an agency last summer. I worked as an Assistant Account Coordinator at The T1 Agency, a boutique agency in mid-town Toronto that specializes in experiential marketing. Interested in learning more about what a job in the agency world entails? Keep reading to hear more about my amazing experience at T1!

Being An Account Management Intern

As an account management intern, my role was to support the account team with their various activations. Most of my tasks fell under four categories: sourcing, research, creating final reports and administrative tasks.

SOURCING

Every company wants a memorable brand activation to achieve a desirable position in their consumers’ minds. Often times, agencies need to source a variety of items to allow their vision to come to fruition. As an intern, I often had to research new suppliers, follow up rigorously with the best ones, and obtain quotes to budget the cost of a brand activation.

Some items I sourced were quite common, while others made me think “Where are we going to find this?” Over the course of my internship, I sourced a giant floral horseshoe for an OLG activation at a horse racing event, a drone for a concert, and a tattoo artist in Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. T1 had campaigns all around Canada with very ambitious ideas, and these all needed to be supported by a vendor who could make it happen.

RESEARCH

The most creative part of my role as an intern was the chance to do some first-hand research for new activations. This was my favourite part of the internship, as I had the chance to work on the actual strategy behind a brand.

One of the highlights of my internship was creating a proposal for a client and their 25th brand anniversary- they wanted to determine whether celebrating this anniversary would be worth the investment. I researched 10 companies that celebrated brand anniversaries, how they did it, and the results they achieved. I also researched academic journals, read industry news and even conducted a couple interviews with people in the field. I had the chance to discover my own insights and prepare them in a presentation that was ultimately used in our final recommendation for the client. Definitely an amazing experience!

FINAL REPORTS & TRAINING MANUALS

Interns are also involved with making several final reports and training manuals, and there’s usually an invitation to help present your material with the team. I’m a design nerd, so I loved adding my own flare and ideas when making the final reports.
These reports are the summary of an entire project, from objective to strategy to execution and finally, results. With the activation behind us, the final report is the agency’s chance to make a lasting impact on how their efforts delivered value for the client. The coolest part about this was the chance to see some projects through from concept to execution. I joined one project while it was still being brainstormed by the creative team, and ended up creating the final report then even sharing a few words during the final presentation to the client.

ADMIN

There’s some admin work as well, like filling out forms and following some processes (job requests, shipping forms, purchase orders etc.) While these tasks are not as engaging, they are an important way to see how the agency is organized internally.

A Typical Day At T1
Although everyday was unique and different at T1, most of my days included some combination of the following activities.

This schedule was honestly very fluid and changed day to day. There were some days that we spent entirely at the client’s office, while there were others when we were at the company’s in-house engineering company to review new technology for our latest activation.

Every Monday, the company also had something called “Chalk Talk”, where we would go over work updates but also key “people” updates such as milestones achieved, birthdays, personal accomplishments, and new team members. T1 was all about celebrating people, work and ideas.

Even though we all had a “schedule”, the work environment was very open and engaging. I hesitate to say that it was relaxed because everybody worked hard and agencies move fast – just like startups. Yet, despite how busy everyone is managing their activations, people make time to catch up with friends and mingle over a cup of coffee mid-day as well. The fantastic thing was that even though we all come from different backgrounds, everyone was passionate about marketing and creating memorable brand experiences. “Marketing News” was posted on bulletin boards around the office, and co-workers often shared the new and exciting work they were doing for their clients.

Agencies also have an amazing culture to show people that it’s not just about work, but also about making great friends in the office. T1 is known for their Beer Carts on Fridays, where the interns literally fill a shopping cart up with beer and wine and the office takes a beer break around 4 pm. There’s usually snacks, music and a variety of drinks to go around. As an intern, this also means that your job on Fridays will be collecting beer cart orders and picking it all up from LCBO (definitely the biggest purchase you’ll ever be in charge of making).

Breaking into Agency

 

Now that you’ve read all about what it’s like to work for an agency, you’re probably wondering; how can I get a summer internship in agency? Here are the steps that reflected exactly what I did to get my own internship:

  1. Get to know the agency’s culture: Every agency is different, and agencies want to hire interns who don’t just want to work in advertising, but want to work for their agency in particular. Research the company’s work and be familiar with a few of their clients and projects. Reading thought leadership pieces by their senior leaders is a good step too.
  1. Talk to as many people as possible. You hear this all the time, but it is so important. Talk to everybody involved and related to the company to get to know the company in different light, and then use your insights in your interview. When preparing for my interview, I had already spoken to two former interns, both recruiters, the Chief Creative Officer (at an educational keynote on campus), and a former senior brand ambassador (who I reached out to on LinkedIn). Incidentally, my first engagement with their HR team was at QMA’s Agency Day – so if you’re a Queen’s student, make sure you attend!   
  1. Gear your interview answers to exactly what they are looking for: Prepare your interview answers so your stories highlight exactly what your agency is looking for. Agencies look for individuals who are extremely organized, reliable, willing to learn and able to juggle multiple priorities. Tailoring your answers and experiences to these traits will make it easy for them to evaluate your candidacy.

That’s a wrap! If you have any further questions about agency, T1 or some of the best lunch places I discovered during my internship, feel free to shoot me an email at imaan.virani@theqma.ca. Happy to help!