So you've got an internship!

This post is inspired by a Mohawk student who sent me a message on Twitter asking for advice for someone who is starting an internship. So thanks, Sandy! 

First of all, congratulations on getting an internship at a super-awesome advertising agency! It’s not easy to get in, and it’s not easy to get hired once the internship is over - a lot of it comes down to luck and whether or not the agency has enough business to be able to pay a new hire. But hey, you’re getting experience - and that’s what it’s about. Anyway, enough with the talk about things being hard, let’s get down to what you can expect once you’re there, and how to make the most of it.

I’d like to start this by saying all of the following is my own personal opinion. It could be right or it could be wrong. Take all of it in or take none of it - it’s really up to you.

You are more important than you think you are.

This is an opinion that I think most interns have. You think that just because you’re a student coming into an agency for a first time, people will not take you seriously. Well, you’re wrong. An agency hired you because you are talented and they believe that you’ll bring greatness to the work you’re given. The only reason why people at an agency won’t take you seriously is because you don’t take yourself seriously. You’re fresh out of school, true, but you’re also full of ideas that probably haven’t been done before. You’re level of creativity is going up, not down - take advantage of that. Always be confident in the work you’re doing, but never stray from getting advice from other employees at the agency - they’ve been doing it a long time and probably know what they’re talking about. Ask a shit-ton of questions too, because if you’re not learning anything, you’re not being a good intern. Agencies want interns to grow on a professional level - questions are never a bad thing. You’re not bugging anyone by asking them, I promise. 

You probably won’t be working on a TV spot.

This is not always true, but for the most part you’ll be helping out ADs and CWs with adapts and such. Some lucky interns will get to work on a television spot, but if they are, it’s not likely they will be the head creative on the project. Don’t feel down about it - the client is spending a lot of money and TV is usually held for creatives who have been in the business for awhile. That being said, you will probably still get to work on things that you can call your own. If your Creative Director gives you a brief for a Facebook ad, work the shit out of it. Make it the best Facebook ad the world has ever seen. Give options - CDs love options. If the brief calls for a web banner, give them a web banner but also give them something else, like a billboard idea - as long as the billboard idea is awesome. If you’re able to demonstrate that you can get a brief for one piece of creative and make it work across a bunch of different media, they will be more likely to give you bigger projects.

You’ll be treated like a child.

This is absolutely not true. If you’re at an agency where people treat you like a child, or like shit, let someone know. Interns should be treated the same as any other employee. Interns are a huge part of an agency’s success, and for the most part, everyone knows it. Sometimes it’s hard as an intern to speak up because you want to make a good impression, but I promise you’ll be making a better impression by telling someone at the agency that there’s some douchebag asking you to get their morning cup of coffee. That crap is unacceptable, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. The chances of someone actually asking you to get coffee are probably less than 1%, but you never know. If you’re interning in Toronto, you’re coming into an industry that doesn’t put up with stuff like that. Toronto agencies are filled with amazing people, and hopefully you get to meet all of them. Unfortunately, there’s always one or two who slip through the cracks.

 You’ll be paid top-dollar.

Nope, you probably won’t. Unfortunately, most internships are unpaid - but some do pay for transportation. If you’re lucky, you’ll get into an agency that pays hourly. I believe interns should be paid for their work, but that’s just me. It’s rough for a little bit, but you’re getting great experience and you get to hopefully work on something that will go into your portfolio. Better yet, it may end up with you getting hired, yay! I can’t tell you how to get a job, it all depends on the agency. Hope for the best, do good work and cross your fingers. I can tell you that if you keep trying, you will eventually get hired. Never give up.

Other stuff…

Don’t get stressed out. Everyone knows you’re an intern and everyone knows your there to learn as much as you can, so take full advantage of it. Internships can be a lot of fun and you’ll get to meet a lot of amazing people. Don’t work until 2AM every day, that’s crazy talk. Talk to full-time employees about their job - ask questions. Get time with your CDs and don’t be nervous talking to them. I was so scared to talk to my CDs during my first internship and I really shouldn’t have been. Show your book off to other creatives and ask for feedback - they’ll give it to you. 

Most of the people you’re working with had to start as an intern as well, so they all know what it’s like. They probably don’t forget it either, so they’ll be totally open to helping you out, which is a great thing. Have a lot of fun, do a lot of great work and meet a lot of people. Hopefully you’ll get hired once it’s over. 

One more thing…

Use your internship email to talk to other agencies. It’s one thing to get an email from, but it’s another to get an email from - people will pay attention to the agency bit of the email address. Get yourself noticed at other agencies as well. When I was doing my internship, I sent emails every week to other agencies in Toronto, and I got a lot of interview requests from them just based upon where I was sending the email from. This is a little bit risky to do, because you never know if you’re going to be hired where you are interning - so use caution, but also use your best judgement. 

Have fun and learn a lot. Do some award-winning work and make the full-time folks sweat a little bit. One day, you might be replacing them :)


I’ve felt basically lucky ever since, almost every day of my life. That’s something else love should make you feel. It should make you feel fortunate. It will be made clear to you in a stray gesture, the line of a throat. Something in the hands. There may or may not be any music playing. But there will be a certain velocity of the spirit, a sensation of dropping through clear space unimpeded, and you think, this is the one. I found you.
—  Suzanne Finnamore, The Zygote Chronicles
I remember one desolate Sunday night, wondering: Is this how I´m going to spend the rest of my life? Marrid to someone who is perpetually distracted and somewhat wistful, as though a marvelous party is going on in the next room, which but for me he could be attending?
—  ― Suzanne Finnamore
Fucking ego.

There’s one interesting thing about being a young creative - okay, there’s many interesting things, but if there’s one thing you quickly learn at an agency it’s that your ego is the one thing that will hold you back from doing great work. There’s probably a million blogs out there saying the exact same thing that I am saying, but hey, why not say it one more time: your ego needs to go away when you are a creative.

As a creative, you will have to present your work to many channels: your partner, your CDs, account folks and ultimately clients. When this process happens it can sometimes feel like you’re showing off a new baby to your good friends and they are calling him/her ugly. It’s a scary thing having to show off work, mainly because you don’t want to hear bad things - but it’s the bad things that will make you a better creative. Every time I have to write a new piece of copy I get really nervous bringing it to my CDs. Sometimes I even try to explain myself as they are reading through it, which is something I’m working on fixing. Luckily, I am surrounded by amazing people; my CDs generally let me keep my work the way I want it to be. Sure, there are a few changes here and there, but they are teaching me what I’m doing wrong and fully explaining why they would recommend a change. The key word here is ‘recommend’. I’ve never, ever had one of my CDs say “change ______ to _______.” because they aren’t like that - they will always tell me “you may want to make _____ say _______, but it’s up to you.” which is really awesome! It lets me know that they have confidence in what I’m doing, which, in turn, makes me more comfortable presenting work to them.

But even before anything goes to them I like to show my work to my partner. Partners are your greatest asset, because they will kill anything really shitty right from the start. It’s easy to get caught up in an idea you think is an award-winner, when in reality it’s a piece of shit. Right now I have the pleasure of working with an amazing Art Director - and I’m not just saying that because she may read this at some point. Her and I always show our work to one another before we show it to our CDs, because a filter is always important. What do I know about Art Direction? Nothing at all. But if something looks off I will tell her, just like she will tell me if some of my writing doesn’t make sense - and it’s a great thing. I respect the shit out of her, and so far we are kicking ass doing great work. I’m really lucky to have her with me - she’s crazy talented. 

In school it’s easy to get caught up in the whole ‘business vs. creative’ stuff, which is fun and all, but it’s also important to know that those ‘business’ folks are one of your greatest assets. The people who deal with accounts know the client better than you do, that’s their job, so let them do it. If they tell you that a client will probably reject a certain object being in a layout or a certain word being in copy, listen to them. At times it’s easy to discount what they are saying about your creative because they aren’t trained the way you are - but in reality, they are probably right. Trust me, they want to sell the work just as much as you do. As I’ve learned, they fully know how to make the random shit I say in a presentation sound like gold. I often turn to the account folks when I am unsure about copy, because they know the brief better than me or the client - they’re the ones who wrote it. Make sure you always ask them to look at your work before you send it out to client, and really take in their advice. If you don’t agree with their changes, tell them and give them a rationale - they will never be against you - they will work with you to make something great. An agency is one big team, so play like one.

Well now that I’m off track, I will return to my original point - lose the ego. Sometimes it will ruin your day having work rejected by one of the channels it has to go through, but in the end it will come out looking beautiful. Never, ever be afraid to share ideas with the people around you - they aren’t cutting you down as a person, they are just talking about the work. The work isn’t you. The more open you are in sharing thoughts and ideas, the better. Always remember that clients want to be a part of the process. They will change work and at times it may piss you off, but the best thing you can do is work with them - they are as much of an asset as anyone around you. The ultimate goal is to sell product, and if the client looks good, so does your agency - and you. I’ve lucked out so far with a great agency, great people and great clients. They trust that we know what we are doing - which may or may not be a rare thing, I’m not sure. 

If you’re a student reading this: show your book off to everyone - and I mean everyone! Show it to friends and family, because people in the ad business aren’t the ones buying the product you’re trying to sell - friends and family are. If your mom doesn’t get it, chances are other people won’t either. It will be shitty at first, but your work will get better because of it. Hey, I’m still scared to show off my book - I think it sucks. But if someone asks, I’ll let them see it and give me advice about how to make it better. In our business, it’s all about learning new things - so be open to it. And if your friend shows you a book that is horrible, tell them - it’s for the best. Google my book and tell me what you hate about it - I’d really appreciate it.

Rock on, folks! Until next time…

Holy smokes, I’m actually working at CP+B!

Okay, so my adventures at CP+B don’t even begin at the actual building, they start at the local espresso shop. Yep, thank you Vic’s Espresso for making my journey to CP+B so amazingly awesome! So after I get my morning mocha latte (I think that’s how it’s spelled), I step outside where I await my transportation to CP+B. By transportation, I mean a bus that looks like it’s straight out of the local prison facility – complete with bullet holes. This bus is called the Disruptive Thinker Transport and the driver’s name is Mike. Mike’s awesome because on my first day I totally missed the bus and I had to flag him down. I was so confused, and I had no idea where exactly I was supposed to be waiting. When I got on the bus, he told me exactly where to wait so it wouldn’t happen again – problem solved.

Anyway, I have been working at CP+B for two days now (maybe 3 or 4 depending on when this post goes up) and I absolutely love it! The Interns are awesome; the employees are awesome – everyone is just really nice to one another. Interestingly enough, I am the only Canadian on the Intern roster this semester. There are folks from the US, Germany, Columbia and I think Brazil. It’s like the United Nations got together in Boulder. It’s really cool getting to listen to other people’s stories about where they came from and where they plan to go. I think this group of Interns will be the best CP+B has ever seen! Well, at least I hope so. 

So, how does it all work? Well, on our first day we went through orientation, which included a lot of paperwork and information about the Internship program. Each one of us got our own computer, which was supplied by CP+B. Nope, we don’t get to keep them, but it saved me having to bring mine to work and use up all of the memory on it. That bit was a bonus; I had no idea they would be giving us a computer. Once orientation was finished, we were assigned a partner and a mentor. My partner, Lauren, is an Art Director who was born & raised in Florida (I think). She’s a super cool lady who makes fun of Canadians. Anyway, my mentor’s names are Marc & Vivian. I’ve never met Vivian, only because she is pregnant and I’m not even sure if she’s been at work recently. Marc, on the other hand, I’ve met many times. He is a Copywriter and has done a ton of amazing work. Basically what my mentors do is give me work and help me out if I need it.

What have I done so far?

Well, Marc explained that he isn’t really busy at the moment, mostly because they are waiting for feedback on a campaign – no work from him yet. Lauren and I started to wander the hallways asking people if they needed help with anything. That search ended when we met a Copywriter named Kelly (yep, she’s a girl). Kelly gave us some work to do which involved lines and layouts for a pretty big client. Lauren & I spent the day going through lines and laying them out, which actually takes a long time if you want it done right. Luckily, my work ends before hers begins. I did stay pretty late on the first day though. It’s really interesting doing everything in Word and then passing it off to someone who then puts it all together and makes it look pretty. I love that process.

On my second day, Lauren and I were done with previous big client and wanted to see if we could get involved with some other work – which led to the greatest opportunity of all time! The work involves a WICKED client; one we have all heard of. The reason why this is the greatest opportunity of all time is because there’s a pretty cool product coming out, and we get to be a part of pitching a creative idea. Two interns are pitching an idea along with a bunch of other AD’s and CW’s (real, full-time ones). The entire day was spent going over concepts and lines and ideas and more concepts and lines – then lunch – then more lines and ideas… You get the point. We want to do the best possible job we can do, so what I’m doing right now is taking a break from writing lines for work to write some lines on my blog.

I can almost guarantee that all of the lines/ideas that I have come up with tonight will be thrown in the garbage when I go over them tomorrow morning. But hey, this is the real thing. Toss out the crap and realize that there’s much better to follow.

How fu**ing awesome would it be if our idea was picked? I’m trying to be optimistic here.

I’ll update everyone with the results of this pitch as soon as I know what happens. Finger’s crossed.

Also, if any Mohawk students happen to read this: When Jef asks you to write 100 headlines, we all know it sucks and seems like so much work to do. When a CD asks you to “write up some lines for product X”, 100 lines are gone within the first 30 minutes. Self-censoring is something I am trying to learn, and I know I will get better. Writing 500 lines for one thing is very tedious, but ultimately worth it.

Until Next time!

Urban Farming

So, I’ve decided to build myself what is known as a ‘window farm’. Basically, it’s something built using mainly recycled material and as long as you’ve got a big enough window, you can grow fruits, vegetables or just plants in a tower-like structure. There’s a few different ways of doing it, and you can find instructions to make a garden that suits your experience level. Right now, I’m at level 0 - I don’t know a thing about building gardens, so I chose to download the 'beginner’ plans. What I’ll be doing is building one tower with three levels. I think I’m going with beans, strawberries and cherry tomatoes. I’ll most likely buy a baby plant, as growing from seed is much more difficult and with my luck I’d kill the things before I even get them planted. The cool thing about this is that 1) it gives me something to do on the weekend and 2) it saves me from shopping for my three choices. This will be a test run, and if it’s successful I’ll most likely add some more towers to the mix. Anyway, I’ll post pictures of the structure while I’m building it and after everything is planted. I promise it will be as exciting as watching plants grow, literally. But it’s a really cool concept that I learned about watching a TED talk so I figured I’d give it a go. If you’re looking for a good site to find plans to build one of these things, visit - they have free plans. It costs about $30 to build the one I’m attempting, so it’s well worth the money spent.

Here’s essentially what I’m putting together:

External image

Check your balls.

Tom Green said it best when he wrote a song called ‘feel your balls’. Essentially, he sings about how playing with yourself is fun, so why not check for cancer while you’re doing it?

Now, I haven’t been affected directly by cancer, but I do know people who have had to go through it. I never knew my grandfather or my uncle because they died of cancer long before I was even born. This is pretty shitty because from what I’ve heard, they were pretty awesome people. Family background is a huge thing. If it runs in your family, you’ve got more of a chance of getting cancer than you would have if your family has never experienced it. It’s a scary process actually. It’s scary seeing something on your body or feeling something in your body that you need to get checked out. It’s really a mental thing. Something like, 'fuck, if I get checked and it’s cancer then what?’ I’ve been going through this for maybe four years. A long time ago I noticed something on my back that wasn’t right. Immediately I went to the doctor and he said 'no way, you’re good - it’s nothing to worry about’. Okay, that’s fine. He’s a doctor and he knows what he’s talking about. This coming from the same doctor who prescribed me alcohol to deal with my insomnia. 

So cut to four years later. I’m in the bathroom and think about this thing on my back - I check it out and it’s completely different than it used to be. I know this is my fault for not looking at it over the years, but something isn’t right. The next doctor I talk to is a little more concerned than the last. I’ve got something on me with the characteristics of skin cancer and a big bump to go along with it. So what now? 

This is a scary as shit moment for me because up until now I’ve always felt as if I don’t have to worry about anything like this until I am about 80. Not so true apparently. Next steps: get my ass to a dermatologist. My doctor says that the quicker I get everything checked out, the better. If it’s cancer of some sort, I’m better off finding out now because it’s easier to treat if it’s in early stages. Also, another fun fact, skin cancer isn’t some bullshit thing - people die from it. I always thought that skin cancer was simple - cut it off and you’re good. Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this thinking. It’s just as dangerous as any other kind of cancer. Fuck, that’s a lot of 'cancers’ in one paragraph.

Bottom line, check the shit out of yourself. Hey, if you’re about to have sex - get your partner to check you. Actually, scrap that, have sex first and then get him/her to check you - that way it’s more fun. 

I’m getting sent to a specialist who will tell me what is going on, but this is scary for me - I’ve never been through it. I’m hoping for the best and expecting the worst. If it’s the latter, at least it gives me a chance to cock-punch cancer, because it kind of deserves it. I’ll keep everyone updated :)

CHECK YOUR BALLS, YOUR BOOBS AND YOUR SKIN. And boys, if nothing else, it’s a great excuse to handle a nice set of breasts - your girlfriend will thank you - or you can thank her, either way works.