The Digiday guide to the most creative summer agency internship projects

As creative as they are, agency interns are not settling for a dull desk job this summer. Nine interns at SapientNitro, for example, created an online game called “Get Shelved” to raise awareness around ugly food waste, while BBDO’s 74 interns created a microsite with a cookbook theme to introduce themselves.

Interestingly, while almost every agency has an internship program (or “an apprenticeship program” in some cases), many were vague (or confidential) about specific projects that their interns are working on when this reporter pushed for more details. So we highlighted five intern-led campaigns from the above two agencies as well as Arnold Worldwide, RPA and Giant Spoon as those projects are notable in some way.

We are definitely interested in hearing from more agencies that are letting interns flex their creative muscles.

“Get Shelved,” SapientNitro
Jake Wexler and Daniel DeSimone started interning at SapientNitro as account coordinators back in June. Last week, the duo — in collaboration with one project manager, one developer, two creatives and two strategists — debuted their first summer project, a shareable online game called “Get Shelved,” to raise awareness around food waste.

“We were inspired by SapientNitro’s ‘Save The Food’ campaign for Ad Council. Every year in the U.S., 26 percent of all produce is thrown away simply for the way it looks. But those fruits and veggies are just as delicious and nutritious as [and cheaper than] regular produce,” said DeSimone. “So we want to present the fact in a fun and shareable way.”

Players can name their select fruit or veggie.
Players can name their select fruit or veggie.

To start the game, players can pick one of three items — Apple, Lemon or Carrot — at Then they will go through the lifecycle of the select misshapen food or veggie, where they learn about its nutrition, taste and appearance through a simple test. At the end of the game, players can spread the word on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #GetShelved. They can also opt to buy the food they played with at Hungry Harvest, which works to reduce food waste, or Misfit Juice, which turns misshapen produce into juices.

Wexler and DeSimone have learned a few things from playing with food, including how to coordinate with everyone on the team and how to spend their time more wisely. Most important, they realized that the “sky is the limit when it comes to creative.”

Players can share the game on Facebook and Twitter.
Players can share the game on Facebook and Twitter.

“We have lots of ideas, but we have to balance what we want to do and what we can do,” said DeSimone. Over the past two weeks, the site has 4,000 visitors with around 75 percent accessing it through social media.

A cookbook microsite, BBDO
Every year for the past five years, interns at BBDO have been tasked to come up with a new way to introduce themselves to the agency. This summer, BBDO’s 74 interns from 58 different schools around the world created a cookbook microsite dubbed “BBDOEats,” where everyone shared a little of the recipe that makes them who they are.

Those recipes range from traditional dishes from one’s hometown, like hearty Brunswick stew, to more figurative fare. For instance, an account management intern from New York University (who doesn’t want to be named) shared her recipe for navigating a community without borders. Her ingredients include a dictionary, an open mind, over five social media accounts and a virtual private network.

“From Facebook to WeChat to KakaoTalk, you’ve got to get with multiple trends to keep in touch,” she wrote. “And with a reliable VPN, even the Great Firewall of China can’t stop you from communicating with loved ones.”

Instagram introduction and Snapchat takeover, Arnold Worldwide
Visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat play a central role in Arnold’s internship program. From July to August, the agency’s 24 interns in Boston and four interns in New York City took to Instagram to introduce themselves. Each photo is accompanied by a caption that highlights a few fun facts about the intern featured in the picture.

“Every piece of content comes from our interns,” said Ginger Ludwig, director of agency marketing for Arnold. “It’s an easy way to aggregate different content throughout the semester, so our interns can have a holistic view of what the internship at Arnold looks like.”

Aside from Instagram introduction, each intern has the opportunity to sign up for a “day in the life” takeover on Snapchat, showcasing their meetings, team lunches and commute into the city. Carly Shwieters, who is interning on the social and content systems team, recently did a Snapchat takeover that highlights her brainstorm sessions and team hangouts.

She even posted a time-lapse music video on walking around the Arnold headquarters to her personal Instagram account. “Arnold has a nice space so I want to brag about it to my [1,421] Instagram followers,” said Shwieters.

The Bergamot outings, RPA
When Kelsey Schiedermayer joined agency RPA as an art production intern in June, she was tasked to develop a project that she could call her own. So she complied a list of exhibits at Bergamot Station Galleries for RPA staffers to visit during their lunch breaks on Wednesdays.

“Our department is always looking for ways to stay inspired, and since Bergamot Station is less than 10 minutes away, I thought it would be a perfect fit,” said Schiedermayer.

Gallery outings aside, Schiedermayer rearranged RPA’s Inspiration Wall — a collage of artists’ and photographers’ promos that the agency has received – and added a color pattern to it. “I spent some time looking through the promos we had, getting familiar with the range, style and different aesthetics we had,” she said. “I felt that curating the promos by color and hue would make the wall the most cohesive and aesthetically pleasing.”

The Inspiration Wall at RPA
The Inspiration Wall at RPA

Ad executives at RPA absolutely like Schiedermayer’s creative work. “It’s like she gave us a window,” said Linda Hardwick, an art producer at the agency.

A research around millennials and politics, Giant Spoon
This is a big year for politics. For Rob Storey, a strategy intern at Giant Spoon, the relationship between millennials and politics is a fascinating subject.

“Most people think that millennials are lazy and don’t actually vote, but millennials do talk about politics on social,” said Storey. “I think people underestimate social media’s impact on politics. Look at what Donald Trump has been doing on Twitter.”

Storey’s research wasn’t a fact sheet or regurgitation of comScore data — instead, it was an anthropological look at people and culture, said Justin Luk, senior strategist for Giant Spoon. “For example, Rob discussed the millennial inclination to gaming life and how it manifests in Hillary Clinton’s recently launched campaign app, which rewards and connects supporters,” said Luk.

Rob's presentation on Snapchat
Rob’s presentation on Snapchat

To share Storey’s work, the agency broadcast his presentation through the Giant Spoon Snapchat channel for all to see.

Homepage image via Arnold Worldwide.

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