Internships In The COVID-19 Era: Some Agencies Cancel, Others Improvise

While many agencies are completely halting their summer internship programs in light of the COVID-19 crisis, other agencies are moving forward with various tactics.

A number of agencies continue to participate in the 4As’s MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program). Several agencies, including The Richards Group, earlier committed to participate in the 12-week program prior to the crisis and wanted to fulfill their pledge.

MediaCom is another agency hosting MAIP interns this summer along with those matched through partnerships with St. Francis and Save the Internship NY. MediaCom’s 10-week program will support flexible hours, as it is currently doing for its regular employees. Interns receive a laptop to assist with this connectivity.

Each week, interns will attend several training sessions that will provide a deep dive into each discipline and a speaker series will provide FaceTime with the executive team. These sessions will be complimented with eLearning via MediaCom’s own internal platform. In addition, each intern will be paired with a supervisor or mentor to assist with coaching and goal setting. Although social activities are not in-person, MediaCom will also still hold networking events, game nights, and coffee chats.



In addition to an MAIP intern joining The Richards Group this summer, the Dallas-based agency will also host a few other interns secured before COVID-19 starting shutting everything down. Each opportunity is handled separately, by discipline, explains an agency representative.

Thesis stayed the course with its summer internship program, completing interviews via Zoom the past couple months and in May, hiring eight interns. Diversity was a top priority with this year’s class comprised of 50% African American, 25% LatinX and 25% Asian American.
“We were able to hire some of area’s top talent for our internship program, as many other companies abandoned their internship plans for this year,” says Ryan Buchanan, CEO, Thesis. “I think this puts us and our interns in a unique position for the next year.”

This internship season is altered due to the virus, shortening the typical 10-12 week timeline to six weeks due to current closures in the agency’s Portland, OR location. Still, interns will be able to be in the office 50% or more of the time, which is an integral part to understanding the company brand and business. Remaining time will spent working remotely.

The Gate l New York has added five remote-based interns scattered across the country and the greater NYC area to experience agency life. The program kicked off with a Zoom session last week where representatives from each department took them through various agency processes.  The intern group is currently working on a new business project.

Cronin launches its virtual program on June 8 with six interns starting their summer journey along with three others continuing from the spring program. Each student is assigned to an area of his or her choice: Brand Management, Media and Analytics, Creative, PR, and Business Development. Each intern is also assigned a mentor to help them to acquire real-world skills while contributing towards actual client work. 

Several of Worldwide Partners’ agencies are hosting interns this year including St. Louis-based Moosylvania, Hylink Digital Group’s LA office, and Philadelphia’s Brownstein Group.
Two European partners, Ireland’s Ardmore and Sweden’s Blomquist, are instituting a talent exchange allowing one staff to gain experience internationally.

Madison, WI-based Planet Propaganda was underway with recruitment when COVID-19 struck in force. However, strategy director Jeremy Cesarec says, “Luckily our two top candidates were willing to go with the flow, working from their parents’ homes for now, and waiting to see if office life resumes.” For now, these two students are working independently, joining internal web meetings, and completing a deep dive research presentation on a trend or category. This strategy was piloted by the agency’s spring interns who had their program disrupted by the crisis. “We had them record a ‘live’ presentation and shared it with the agency to streamline things and avoid tech hiccups,” says Cesarec. However, he admits these students are getting less “fly-on-the-wall” client experience, since we try to keep those meetings to essential members only.

Horizon Media, NAIL, and Mechanica are three agencies that have canceled their programs entirely. “We thought about doing a virtual program, but decided just too much was going on to try and manage it effectively,” explains Ted Nelson, CEO/strategy director, Mechanica. “Bummer, I know.”

Leaders at providence, RI-based NAIL Communications suggest that just because there are no “official” programs doesn’t mean there are not opportunities. “We do recommend reaching out to prospective agencies with specific skills, offering how you can help, specifically,” recommends Jeanette Palmer, managing director, NAIL. She explains while her agency doesn’t have the resources to host a guest, as it might be willing to do in the world pre-COVID-19, “we do need help.” She advises, “Demonstrating where your strengths are is a better way to find an unposted opportunity.”




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