How Agencies Can Truly Attract the Next Generation of Creatives

Hint: It's about them, not you

Graduation. A time for closing one chapter and opening yourself up to new opportunities. Until Covid-19 happened. So many dreams were destroyed this year when internships at agencies were put on hold. Yuck. Flashback several years. What if this had been me?

Monday to Friday (and the occasional weekend) I'm a senior strategist. I love the energy that agency life conjures up, and I fondly remember the excitement of starting my career in the industry. So, when I thought about students being robbed of their maiden voyage, I knew something had to be done. I jotted my idea down on a greasy napkin after enjoying a Philly cheesesteak—a virtual creative bootcamp. 

This wasn't going to be just any "camp." It would be a chance to flip the traditional intern program on its head. Something that doesn't benefit the agency as much as it does the individual. Sure, you can help on a creative portfolio, but what about helping a student on a piece of music for an album? Or the accompanying album art, a stand-up comedy routine, a play—or providing guidance on how to construct your own personal brand? Different from most internship programs, instead of tapping young talent to make our work, we would help them make theirs.  

This is the way our industry will attract the next generation of creative talent. Agencies need to harness creative energy in any form and help people bring something to life. Anything. Most importantly, something that doesn't just benefit their clients.

I believe everyone is a creative. There are also plenty of young, talented individuals out there. People who are often overlooked because they don't carry the portfolio school pedigree. I live in Boston, a city fueled by the arts—visual, culinary, musical. Lots of creative energy floods the streets. A lot of them don't know where to go to incubate or even birth an idea. We, as an industry, need to change this.

Give emerging makers of all backgrounds a chance to hone their talent, discover their path, and make work that kickstarts their careers. We need to partner with communities and individuals to help execute their ideas, not ours. Because if agencies want to be a part of culture, first we have to be enablers of the inherent culture that already exists. Give back and become a patch in the quilt of a larger community.

I'm lucky that our managing director is a lifelong learner (and passionate leader) who fully supported the idea and understood the impact a program like this could have. Three months later, we're bringing it to life as Camp Jack. 

We'll see how it goes, but right now over 300 promising creatives are waiting on a Zoom call as I write this. What I am hoping is that this will serve as our industry model for employee engagement and professional development in a post-Covid world. And that others in my shoes will follow. We must start championing great ideas that could have greater impact on the culture of the communities in which the agency resides. So many young people have the fire, they just need a little kindling. 

I leave you with this thought: What if the only thing agencies get in return is the chance to say they helped one kid bring one idea to life? This could really shape the future of intern programs. 

Needless to say, I'm very glad I ordered that cheesesteak. 

Byron Morgan
Byron Morgan is a senior strategist at Jack Morton.

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