It’s three letters long, is ushered with more cheese than a Doritos-laden dustpan and is followed by a classic Cheshire smile.
Hello, my name is Lachlan, and I said, “Yes”.
Step aside, Optus, because I said “Yes” to an internship with SMART McCann Worldgroup. A small team of creative wunderkinds with an office on the Gold Coast led by the divine might of ex-radio man Joe Sands, SMART promises exactly what it delivers, engaging creative based on truths. What truth, you ask? It was my job to investigate.
Donning what appeared to be a high school uniform, 15 year old 20 year old clean-shaven me sat nervously before the empirical might of Mr Sands (who’s actually a really nice guy, but for the sake of the story had to sound dramatic). I’d heard tales of his thirst for power; “Part of multi-national McCann Worldgroup”, they’d say, “The most awarded agency network of 2013”, they’d continue. To my surprise and delight, the first task of the day wasn’t to sort mail, shine shoes or descale the coffee machine. It turns out nobody descales the coffee machine. In fact, after a rather cheery conversation and introduction, I was eased into the role of a content marketer under the supervision of Jade and Fiona, SMART’s resident cool-cats. Overseeing the proverbial pride of lions was creative genius Phillippa, who was at the forefront of all creative executions within the agency.
I’ll admit, I’d read horror stories about internships. “Stay late, don’t eat and don’t talk! And definitely don’t do anything unless you’re explicitly told to”. Thankfully, this was a nightmare that never came to pass. Unlike the soulless ghosts who purportedly haunt those companies lucky enough to rank on the Forbes 100, SMART treated me like an adult, valued my decisions and even implemented some of my ideas. Joe even let me grow out a stylish (subjective) beard! That’s not to say that I spent all day looking in the mirror and relaxing; I worked hard, put my head down, and some days even subjected myself the torturous brine of tinned tuna-and-beans. On those lucky days that I did bring cash, there was always one benevolent office angel who would offer to drive down to the local café/burrito bar/restaurant and order up a storm. I’ve never had a bagel before; well, a bagel with cream cheese maybe, but never a bagel with smoked chicken, avocado and secret sauce. I’m convinced these little hubs of culinary magic only appear in suburbs that I don’t live in.
When I wasn’t learning how to degust handcrafted cuisine, or how not to use the steam-wand on the coffee machine, I had the opportunity to work on some pretty neat accounts. Having a background in graphic design came in handy for a few of these projects and it was interesting to see how many transferable skills were needed across the board. Preparing a report for a client? InDesign! Sourcing images for a website but need to edit out the clutter? Photoshop! Preparing content plans? Excel! Sadly, there was no escaping the monolith of Microsoft’s data entry software, albeit I did develop a new respect for it. Excel and I became good friends during my time with SMART, its delicate columns keeping my ideas in line, and its rows, oh its rows… how they glistened with colour coordination. These pages became the lifeblood of my research - an integral part of any social or content strategy.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences at SMART was actually using this research to instigate change. Hours upon hours spent in the fray, finally put to good use. By week 6 of my 12-week internship, my proverbial strategy canon was ready to be fired, blowing away all the competition in the process. While I can’t disclose the details of said strategy, I can confirm that it was a comprehensive beast, clawed and all. Another highlight was having free reign over SMART’s CMS web platform. After throwing me in the deep end with the client to see whether I would sink or swim, Managing Director Joe Sands believed I was ready. From knowing next to nothing about agency CMS, to whizzing around the FTP software like Timothy Olyphant in Die Hard 4, this experience proved to be one of the most useful and practical experiences I would have at SMART.
Today marks 12 weeks with SMART. There’s been no blood or tears, but sweat, plenty (thanks to 35-degree Queensland weather). It’s been fun, challenging and sometimes tiring, but ultimately and most importantly, it’s been rewarding and engaging. I had the chance earlier this morning to speak with Jeremy from McCann’s Sydney office; he once sat in the very seat I’m writing this from, both figuratively and literally. From humble beginnings as a university intern, Jeremy planted a seed at McCann that rapidly bloomed and bore the fruits of success. I suppose the takeaway from my experience is that, from little things, big things grow. You need to walk the walk before you can talk the talk, make a name for yourself, stay hungry, keep on learning and always give it everything you’ve got.
If you were thinking about undertaking an internship, with SMART or elsewhere, then stop thinking and start doing! You’ll learn things about yourself that you won’t find in the appendix of that marketing textbook, and don’t worry, group assignments in the real world aren’t anything like they are at university.
So good luck, and farewell!