Zulu Alpha Kilo Urges Companies to Pay Their Interns

Because that branded mug won't cover the bills

The year is 2023, and 41 percent of internships are unpaid. For the people in the back—PAY YOUR INTERNS!

Zulu Alpha Kilo teamed up with the National Association of Colleges and Employers to remind companies that paying interns should be the norm, and not the other way around.

In 2018, Students from Humber College—who were reimbursed—worked with the agency on a brief to encourage businesses to pay interns. But Covid put the project on hold until this year.

Ultimately, the process yielded six videos that illustrate how unpaid work experience isn't a viable form of currency in the real world. Remember: agency swag, references, leftover bagels, bus passes and thank-you cards are unacceptable forms of payment at convenience stores, retail shops and ride-share services.

Unpaid Is Unfair | Paid in Mugs
Unpaid Is Unfair | Thank You Cards

"The campaign is meant as a rallying cry to end unpaid internships everywhere," says Zak Mroueh, founder and creative chairman of Zulu Alpha Kilo. "The hope is that employers see all the benefits of interns being paid. After all, it's the responsibility of every industry to groom the next generation of talent. Unpaid internships are not always doable for those who may not have the financial means. As a result, we don't always see an equitable representation of who the best talent really is."

Unpaid Is Unfair | Bagels
Unpaid Is Unfair | References

"Unpaid Is Unfair" will run on YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Viewers can enter a contest to win items featured in the videos. The merch includes QR codes that can convert the items into real money—$250.

"Robin Heisey, formerly a professor at Humber College's advertising program, instigated the project," Mroueh tells Muse. "He approached us about giving his students a real brief so they could practice experiential learning. Twenty students worked and learned at the agency for two days. Each was paid a day-rate equivalent to a starting salary at the time. After they went back to college to finish their semester, four of the students stayed on with us as part-time employees."

Laura Biggar, one of the students who participated four years ago, became a full-time writer at the agency and worked on final aspects of the initiative.

Unpaid Is Unfair | Shirts
Unpaid Is Unfair | Bus Passes

Client: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
Clients: Shawn VanDerziel, Joshua Kahn, Mimi Collins
CCO & Director: Zak Mroueh 
CCO: Tim Gordon
CMO: Christine McNab
Creative Director: Vic Bath 
Creative Director: Dan Cummings
Design Director: Dejan Djuric 
ACD: Andrea Por
Art Directors: Erin Rodness, Brook Charlinski, Joel Gerrity, Julia Kluga, Samantha Beauchamp
Writers: Laura Biggar, Joel Gerrity, Brook Charlinski, Kiana Robson, Nuala Murray, Jamie Galloway
Executive Strategy Director: Sean Bell  
Account Team: Robin Scott, Christina Hill, Abigail Joy
Communications Director: Kelly Flynn
Production house: Zulubot
Producer: Colleen Allen
Assistant Producer: Amy Groll
Executive Producer: Adam Palmer
Director of Photography: Adam Griffiths
Second Camera: Kyle Chappell
Editor: Max Lawlor
Online: Felipe Chaparro
Colourist: Can Yuksel
Audio Engineer: Noah Mroueh
Casting: Mann Casting
Actor: Rachel Manson

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