Kenan Thompson Cuts Up as a 'Lil Intern' for Old Navy
If 20-year SNL cast member Kenan Thompson ever leaves the show, what will he do next? Dude better stick to comedy, because a career at Old Navy isn't in the cards.
Kenan dishes the snark and fails at retail during a weeklong "internship" at the company's San Francisco HQ. Of course, it's an ad campaign—a content series, in fact—with a half-dozen episodes from agency Observatory running three to six minutes apiece.
The setup: Kenan is the only adult participating in an internship for kids—think 2nd and 3rd graders. Hence the title, "Lil Interns."
Hey, it's a premise, people! No premise, no campaign!
Now, sharing screen time with youngsters can be tough. As they say in Hollywood: Never work with children or animals, because they tend to steal the show. Here, however, they don't. The whelps inform the scenarios, but Thompson is the focus and most assuredly on in episodes that co-star actual Old Navy execs poking fun at office life, fashion, marketing, finance and more.
This trailer offers a sample:
You can watch all of the installments further down in this post. Some highlights that bubble up during the 30 or so minutes of content include:
- A tutorial on business acronyms, with AUR translated as "Arrrgh, like a pirate," and Kenan's fruitless attempts to fathom EBITA, which he also can't pronounce.
- Confusion over trend funnels and funnel cakes, plus the realization that lunch breaks are the best part of the daily grind.
- Keenan decorating himself with swatches of material instead of designing new apparel.
- One of the kids musing that "throwing cars on the bridge" would be a neat way for brands to get attention. (This out-of-nowhere ad-lib really resonates. Maybe Tesla should give it a try.)
- A kid dissing Kenan with the line: "I don't watch shows on basic cable."
- Thompson's deadpan dad-humor take on selling jeans to carpool parents: "If they're rich enough to have a pool in their car, they can afford tons of jeans."
- Dude's interactions with his moppet tormentor Archie. ("My Archie-nemesis!")
But Kenan kills throughout, and there's enough cute stuff to keep viewers amused. Probably.
"Our goal was to create a captivating, entertainment-first property that viewers will want to consume," Old Navy senior director of brand engagement Julie Luker tells Muse. "We wanted to keep it unbranded to remain authentic to the storyline, just using Old Navy as the backdrop to the series."
Indeed, it's the softest sell. And that's good. Yet the approach feels a tad too familiar—oddly pre-pandemic. The Office aired its last episode nearly a decade ago, yet some brands still lean into workplace humor. Compared to "Lil Interns," Old Navy's ads penned by TikTok commenters felt fresher and more in tune with the times.
And why go long-form anyway?
"We set out to make short-form episodes," Luker says. "In the edit, we let the content dictate the length. Right now, there is a strong cultural conversation around the workplace, and we think the post-holiday timing is perfect to give everyone a boost as they get back into the flow of work."
Fair enough. But at times, the concept is stretched thinner than an elastic waistband.
The best bits come in the final clip, as Kenan and the kids goof on peer reviews. "How do you feel I'm doing ay my job?" Thompson asks. "Average," a youngster says. "Thank you!" he replies, a huge grin lighting up his face.
Alas, that's a good assessment of the campaign itself. It's average or slightly above, hitting some funny notes but probably too safe and MOR to make a big impact.
Regardless, those Old Navy execs playing themselves imbue the proceedings with unpolished charm. Kudos to these corporate thespians, who add authenticity to the mix while explaining what AUR, EBITA and trend funnels are all about:
HR: Joe Griss, Director of People and Culture
Finance: Hayden Tollas, Head of Finance
Design: Karli Kane, Head of Kids + Baby Design
Marketing: Jeanine Celeste-Pang, Senior Creative Director + Head of Voice
Retail: Gloire Yahve, This Way ONward Alumni
Gap / Old Navy
VP Marketing: Michele Schuh
VP Marketing: Liat Weingarten
Director of Marketing & Advertising: Amy Silver
Director of Media Strategy & Investment: Bette Kestin
Senior Director, Brand Engagement: Julie Luker
Senior Manager, Brand Engagement: Dava Huber
Agency: Observatory, Los Angeles
Chief Executive Officer: Brendan Shields-Shimizu
Chief Creative Officer & President: Linda Knight
Creative Directors: Hunter Hall, Stevie Laux
Associate Creative Directors: Schyuler Hunt, Megan Nakazawa
Art Director: Lily Goth
Copywriter: Corey Hambly
Junior Art Director: Kendelle Cragun
Creative Services & Marcomm Director: Julie Reizes Bartiz
Head of Production: Omar Bustos
Production Coordinator: Elliot Britt
Head of Brand Team: Caroline Doyle
Account Director: Amanda Santana
Account Executive: Catie Brown
Account Supervisor: Morgan Theis
Broadway Video, New York
President: Britta Von Schoeler
Producer: Louis Caggiano
Production Coordinator: Gabriella Mezzacappa
Writer: Sophie Santos
Caviar, Los Angeles
Director: Jason Wolliner
Executive Producer: Tova Dann
Producer: Brian Etting
Head of Production: Tim Kraft
Integrated Producer: Michael Tahan
The Den Edit, Los Angeles
Executive Producer & Coordinator: Jennifer Mersis
Co-Founder: Editor Rachel Seitel
Editor: Pamela Cohen
Sr. Cutting Assistant: Kayla Hashimoto Sr.
Post Producer: Kortney Rubottom
Loom, Los Angeles
Managing Director: Corentin de Saedeleer
ABMC, New York
PR Executives Amanda Zerbib & Taylor Frazier
Sweat & Co., Los Angeles
PR Executives Laura Nicolas & Madi McGuire