Partner Clean’s Intern Bootcamp Helps Students Gain Real-World Agency Experience

Rigorous all-hands meetings. 48-hour turnarounds. Shifting tasks and priorities. Aggressive marketing goals. New team dynamics. The thrill of winning a pitch. These aspects of a busy global agency are things we’ve all come to know well. But it’s unfamiliar territory for most college students.

Not, however, for the lucky few to attend the annual Intern Bootcamp hosted by WPI Partner Clean in North Carolina last month. The Bootcamp is a two-day workshop at the Clean offices where students are led through the process of creating, from scratch, an integrated marketing campaign for a real-world agency client in just two days. The program was the brainchild of Clean’s President/CSO Jeremy Holden, who has been hosting these throughout his career.

This process, affectionately referred to as “a wonderful whirlwind of creative chaos” by a recent participant, gives students an authentic glimpse in the daily workings of a busy and successful advertising agency, and allows them to work with a real client with actual goals and business challenges, rather than the typical hypothetical cases they tackle in class.

Finding The Right Interns

This year, 24 interns were chosen to participate from more than 100 applicants. Recruiting started some six months before the bootcamp, with Clean staff visiting student clubs and marketing departments at large universities, such as Duke and UNC, community colleges, and HBCUs throughout the South to ensure they have a diverse range of participants reflecting the region and community.

The selection process is not one that’s taken lightly. Interested students must submit a resume including an active LinkedIn profile, as well as a statement of their choice on why they should be considered. A cross-functional team of Clean staff reviews the applications, and the selection committee meets in early January to choose participants based on individual skill set, previous experience and/or community/school involvement, and future career interest.

Gaining Real-World, Hands-On Experience

The bootcamp covers numerous project- and skills-based areas, such as brainstorming ideas, planning campaign elements, creating deliverables, delegation, and presentation skills. It also provides experience in less tangible skills–working within a team and across departments, managing dynamic personalities, time and task management–skills that often cannot be gained in a lecture hall or classroom.

As Auburn University’s Carly Bryan, a graduate of this year’s Bootcamp, put it in a LinkedIn article, “This experience, on top of everything else, has taught me to be a leader. I learned what it is like to work with 7 other strong personalities, towards a common goal, and to lead while still having the patience to be led.”

The first day is dedicated to getting to know the agency and their areas of expertise. Department heads of strategy, creative, media, public relations, social, new business and account management provide an overview and explain how the disciplines work together. The interns, divided into three teams, then get to meet the client they’ll be working on.

This year, the real-world client was the North Carolina State University Alumni Association. They were tasked with developing strategies for encouraging graduating students students to participate in the organization.

The second day is where the magic happens! The three intern teams spend the day brainstorming, planning and practicing for the final client presentation. Each intern is delegated a role within the team, where they work on specific aspects of creating campaign themes and deciding on deliverables. With only a day to come up with a comprehensive marketing plan, the teams must present their work at the end of the day to the client and Clean department heads, who provide useful feedback and pick an overall winner.

For the full agency experience, the final day wraps with an agency-wide happy hour, where interns are able to network, talk shop, and celebrate their job well done.

Benefiting Participants, Staff and Clients

The bootcamp is a major benefit for students, but it’s also an extremely useful recruiting tool for Clean. They select full-time summer interns, as well as many of their part-time fall and spring interns, from those that participate in the program.

Clean’s clients also see a benefit from this bootcamp. Aside from being blown away by the professionalism, public speaking skills, and creativity they see from the students, they’re also free to use what the students come up with in future marketing endeavors, whether it be hashtag campaigns, thought leadership or event ideas.

Graduating The Intern Bootcamp

Being a Clean Intern Bootcamp graduate is great honor, and one that can be life changing for the interns. Many of the students have cited getting more out of their short time with Clean than via any classroom instruction to date. “To say I’m grateful to have had this opportunity would be an understatement,” says University of North Carolina’s Clara Wong, a 2018 Intern Bootcamp graduate. “I can easily say Clean Bootcamp has been one of the most rewarding experience of my student career.”

Students can discover different departments or service offerings they didn’t know about, and leave with new areas of interest and a great understanding of what it means to be an integrated services provider.

They also cement their passion for the industry. “Their main lament is that they wish Bootcamp was longer and they want more time to perfect the project,” says Dan Strickford, Director of Public Relations for Clean.

Dedicated, driven, never satisfied–that’s ad agency material for sure! There’s no doubt these 24 Intern Bootcamp graduates will go on to do great things in advertising and marketing, thanks in large part to Clean’s intensive Bootcamp program.