The Land of Disruption

There’s something freeing about being at the bottom of the totem pole. There is nowhere else to go but up. This is the feeling I had as I began my internship this past summer at esteemed agency, TBWAChiatDay, Los Angeles.

Earlier that year, I had started applying to internships back home (in LA). TeamOne, Saatchi&Saatchi, RPA and Davis Ellen, being a few of them. After being rejected by all of them, my morale was slightly damaged and I came to the conclusion that maybe I just wasn’t ready to be shopping around for an internship. This was only after the completion of my second year at the academy after all.

Out of pure boredom, I went to Chiat’s website and saw they had an online application for internships. I carefully filled out the application and posted a link to my sad excuse of a portfolio, most of which was digital art, poster design, photography and stylized illustration having almost nothing to do with advertising. To me, it was a shot in the dark.

A week later when I opened my email to see I had made it to the next round of interviews, something inside me knew I was going to get the position. It may have been wishful thinking, the power of positive energy or maybe that I actually just deserved it. Either way, after a three round interview process I got the position as the Production Team’s Intern.

The nervousness I felt in the interview process was nothing compared to walking into the agency for the first time as a temporary employee. The agency’s philosophy is simple. Disrupt. The act of disruption helps to create the most unique and original ideas. You get a sense of that culture the second you walk through those doors. There are really no words to describe (I’m not a copy writer) the feeling of entering a building filled with some of the most smart and creative people (dogs included) in the industry. I was out of my league. How did I get here? Questioning, doubting, nausea.

My office was located at the “cupboard under the stairs” and it really did feel like something out of Hogwarts. I had my own small room, which literally was under a stairwell, with a Mac desktop, got my own TBWA email address and even got a parking sticker. Every time I would sit back and think about where I was, that feeling of nausea would come over me again. Thankfully, I really lucked out with the people I worked directly for. My supervisor, Mia Campbell, a St. Louis born, turned California girl, took me in with open arms. She introduced me to everyone and held my hand through the process of learning my daily tasks.

Before being the Producers intern, I had no idea what production did in an agency. Although it wasn’t part of the Creative Team, I was so happy to just be there and learn anything I could from whomever would give me the time. Producers basically work with the Creatives and the Clients. They are not planners, but they help carry out the vision so that work can be produced. My favorite part of my job was sitting in on portfolio/reel reviews. Photographers and/or directors would come in and show their books or their reel and all the producers would gather around and check out their work. These reviews were catered 90% of the time, or the artist/rep would bring treats and wine to butter up the producers. I remember one of the senior producers turning to me one day at a particularly lavish review and saying, “They think that this stuff works, but it really doesn’t matter… anyway want to take the rest of these cupcakes?” Don’t mind if I do!

Another large portion of my job was to keep “The Loupe” in order. The Loupe is Chait’s very own stock image site and server. It is the producer’s baby and they are all very proud of their creation. The Loupe houses all images we own that art directors can use for free at any time. My job was to type in the meta-data and create tags so that when a Creative was searching for particular images, it would be an easy process. I also would create light boxes for AD’s. I would get an email from an AD saying, “Hey I need as many Rights Managed images of Kobe Bryant dunking”. So I would search sites like Getty images and create light boxes for them to use for comping purposes.

After about two weeks of doing my job, I started to feel more comfortable and was ready to branch out and exit my comfort zone, also known as the cupboard under the stairs. I met an Art Director, Lindsey Montague, who was extremely bubbly and approachable so I asked her to come to lunch with me one day so I could pick her brain. She was more than willing and that same day I reached out to her, we went out to lunch. She talked about her personal life, how she started in the business, told me all the ins and outs of getting a job, how to be a good intern and to my surprise asked me what I wanted to do with my career.

She was extremely candid with her replies to my questions and after learning that I was studying Art Direction and interested in design, she went the extra mile to make sure that I could get some experience in the Creative field during my stay at Chiat. After lunch, she generously proceeded to walk me around the agency and introduce me to a bunch of teams of AD’s/Writers, a lot of which came from Art Center, so naturally Roland Young became a topic of conversation. She let them know if they needed any help, to shoot me an email. By the time I got back to my desk I already had about 5 emails with design tasks.

Because of my luncheon with Lindsey, I became friends with the Creative Assistant, who is basically Patrick O’neill’s (Chief Creative Director) right hand man. He was a writer taking night classes at The Book Shop, a portfolio school, and one of his jobs was to create all the company event posters. His design skills were ok, but he didn’t enjoy that aspect of his job, so I gladly took on the challenge. I was now designing all the posters for all company events and lunches. This seems like a small task, but Chiat is SO branded and has such high standards, that Patrick O’neill himself would have to approve all posters that would go up in and around the agency. This put the pressure on a little more.

As time went on, Lindsey started sending me real client work, which was so awesome. She would send me a reference image and a sketch of her idea and I would go in the computer and put together a rough composition for her. I helped her comp ideas for Nissan, Energizer and Principle Bank. This was the most exciting part of the job because I was given deadlines, which were stressful and thrilling at the same time.

I met other interns along the way and talked with them about their daily tasks/experiences and some seemed so bored and unenthusiastic. It didn’t hit me until I talked to the other interns, that this experience is truly what YOU make it. I wasn’t the Creative Intern, therefore, how could I expect to be given creative tasks unless I went out and found them for myself? Yes, there were some days where 5 o’clock couldn’t come sooner, but for the most part, I was so excited to be of help and be doing real work. No one is going to create opportunities for you, you have to make them yourself. And when they’re successful and the outcome is desirable, the gratification is that much more rewarding.

Previous to this experience, I didn’t win any awards, I’d never entered anything into the Spring Show, I hardly even had advertising material in my portfolio. But maybe that’s why I was chosen for the position, because it was different than what they always see. You never know who is going to see something in your creativity, and you never know what opportunities will work and what wont unless you go out on a limb and try. On paper, there may have been others who were more qualified for the position, but I was the one who got the internship.

The experience gave me a humbling sense of confidence, some amazing contacts in the industry, but more than anything it gave me friendships. I came out with a stack of business cards and a bunch of new Facebook friends to keep in touch with. The experience was truly invaluable and unforgettable.


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