Don't be surprised when future creative from DigitasLBi Boston is infused with teen lingo. This week the agency is hosting its 15th annual “Eternship” program -- a marketing “boot camp” where 25 local high school students are immersed into the agency to learn about various capabilities, and create their own ad campaigns for a sample client challenge. In turn, the agency gains insight and inspiration from youth culture.
"Both the kids and the volunteers are always really excited about the program, to spend the week learning and creating together," says Melissa York, Vice President/Group Account Director, and chair of the Eternship program. "With Eternship, the challenge is really in the opportunity—it’s about constantly evolving the program to make sure it provides the most beneficial and relevant experiences possible for the students, and that it’s tracking against how the marketing industry as a whole is changing—becoming more mobile, social, and digitally focused."
The program presents these 25 students with a client challenge at the start of the week. Guided by 125 DigitasLBi employee volunteers, the group is then immersed into the agency to learn about its different capabilities, including media, technology, creative, strategy and analytics. The students also receive lessons on public speaking, learn how to give a client presentation, and participate in individual mentoring sessions with agency employees. Finally, working together in small teams, the students present their campaigns to a panel of judges at the end of the week.
"For the last few years, we’ve seen most of the teams coming up with ideas for mobile apps as a part of the campaign," says York. "Same thing with incorporating social media channels, location-based marketing, and more."
The program has evolved to emphasize more one-on-one time. "A couple years ago we started carving out time for more individual, scheduled mentoring Q&A sessions between students and employees," says York. "We also always give the students time at the end of the week to fill out questionnaires and provide their thoughts on how the program went so that we can incorporate their feedback."
This year, several of the participating students are affiliated with DigitasLBi’s partnership with two nonprofit organizations: Let’s Get Ready and Minds Matter, both of which guide low-income high school students through the process of applying to college. Let’s Get Ready’s New England Director, Nakia Navarro, serves as one of the judges at the end of the week, alongside several DigitasLBi executives, including Barbara Goose, President, DigitasLBi Boston and Detroit.
Since its launch in 2000, over 350 students have participated in this program. While DigitasLBi Boston has yet to hire any of this program's alumni, executives have stayed in touch with some of the students to provide career and college advice later on.
While this Eternship program itself is unique to DigitasLBi Boston, other DigitasLBi offices offer educational programs with high school students. For example, in Chicago, the agency is in its second year of partnership with Urban Alliance, a yearlong internship program for under-resourced high school seniors. San Francisco's office has a growing partnership with First Graduate, a college success program that helps students finish high school to become the first in their families to graduate from college. And DigitasLBi New York has partnered with Junior Achievement for over nine years.