10 Things I Learned Interning At an Ad Agency

I’ve been interning at an advertising agency for the last four months. Let me tell you, it has been a whirlwind of learning and mixed emotions. So here are some of the things I learned about agency life just in my short time there.

  1. Sometimes you have serious conversations about ridiculous things, like what would hippy dogs wear…bark-enstocks?
  2. There are best practices, but there isn’t some magical professional way of doing everything. Even professionals use free resources like Unsplash for stock photos, Pinterest for outfit ideas (for shoots), and free mockups to show clients the work on fake billboards, computer screens, and magazines.

Speaking of not having a special way doing things…

  1. As an art director, you’ll spend hours looking for the perfect image for your comp on stock websites. It is a nightmare for me, a joy for others. I’ve only thought to myself about 100 times ‘Just give me the resources to go out and take this damn photo!’
  2. It is a team effort. The account manager consults with the client to see what they want/need, then that is relayed to the media team who figures out what channels and platforms will be used to distribute the creative content. Meanwhile, the creative team is coming up with several different concepts for copy and design. The copywriter and the designer need to work together to create cohesive ideas that stick to the brief. Then those ideas are pitched to the creative director and eventually back to the accounts team and then eventually back to the client. And sometimes after all of that you have to go back to the drawing board and start over.

And because advertising is such a team effort….

  1. Everyone’s ideas meld together. In the end, it can be hard to say a campaign was truly yours because one person did the copy, one person come up with the concept, and another person did the retouching. It isn’t even that simple most of the time. You are constantly brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other, so it can be difficult to recall whose idea was whose to being with. I’d say if you like working on your own, agency life is probably not for you.
  2. A lot of work goes into post-production. This process still a bit of a mystery to me because the way things look from sketching, to composites, to the final product can look vastly different. Once the creative idea has been comped, meaning a rough or pretty good mockup has been made, the work goes to Studio. Studio does all of the retouching, double checks the correct brand colors are used as well as the right logos, and makes sure that the comps can be printed to scale. Which sometimes means making sure the image can be blown up to 14 x 48 ft or even bigger! And since a comp doesn’t have to be high resolution, this sometimes means Studio has to redo the composite with images that can be scaled that big. Fucking props to Studio.
  3. There doesn’t seem to be a steady pace, and things go from 0 to 100 really fast. I can imagine it is this way with most creative jobs, but I still feel like there is a unique aspect to this with agencies since everyone asks if I work crazy hours as an intern. Some days you have downtime and other days you are working 12, 13, 14 hours plus the weekends to get stuff done.
  4. You will get to work with big clients, but maybe not ones you want to work with. At the same time, a client may surprise you with how much you can push the boundaries. I say this because as a newbie, there are definitely clients that seem like they would be boring to work on. What I realize now is that sometimes the client that seems the ‘least fun’ can really push your imagination and the brief can be a satisfying design challenge to solve.
  5. Networking is everything. Obviously. But really, the advertising world is a small one. Everyone seems to know what is going on at other agencies, and many agencies don’t even post job listings on the typical job boards. Many people at my agency worked with each other in the past at other agencies, even if that was on the other side of the country. It is a tight-knit community for sure.
  6. One internship at an agency is probably not going to be the end all be all to get into this industry (at least for creatives). Almost everyone I met within the agency had multiple internships or did freelance work for agencies before being hired full time.

So what’s next? I don’t know.

I’m still trying to figure out of agency life is the life for me. The past few months have gone by so fast, and by the time I was comfortable in the internship it was basically over. It was a roller coaster of feelings. One day I’d hate it another day I felt like this is what I wanted to do forever.

The thing I loved most about it all was the collaboration. You are surrounded by creative people all day every day, and it is hard to not feel inspired and motivated by that. In addition, I now know that things vary a lot from agency to agency and project to project. So it is quite possible I’ll take another stab at the advertising world in the future.

Have you ever worked in the advertising world? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t, what kinds of curiosities do you have about it? Talk to me about it. (:


One thought on “10 Things I Learned Interning At an Ad Agency

  1. I knew nothing about the advertising industry until now. You’re quite funny in some of your descriptions. As an intern were your you able to pitch ideas as well? What role did you play as an intern?

Comments are closed.