adventures in the far east — of canada!

My week at Target Marketing

In internship, st. john's on June 20, 2009 at 1:57 am

In a word, it was wonderful.

Very simply, this is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. Well…there are just a few things I miss, but apparently I’ll get some of that, too.

From the beginning: myself and the copywriting intern were welcomed with open arms. The people at Target are all such good people; they’ll take the time to stop by my desk and ask how I’m doing, whether I need help, and already, both of us interns feel like we’re contributing, and can talk openly with everyone.

The copywriting grad I’m with is a lovely person. She’s a year older, and good at what she does, and has a lot of enthusiasm; I hope she thinks the same of me, and that we don’t let each other down. She grew up in the province and lived a while in St. John’s before moving to Toronto for a bit, so she’s very familiar with the area, which is actually a little bit of a shame. To tell you the truth, I was hoping to get another non-native, and it’d be the perfect excuse to explore the city together, and hang out some to team build. As it is, she already has a deep network of friends here, knows pretty much everything about the town, and so, there goes my little idea. She’s still great though, of course.

Monday was a little boring–most of the day was spent in various meetings so we could learn how the place was run, straight from the mouths of each department. The agency is bright, casual (as all creative companies are), and open, and actually, it reminds me a lot of STEM, the place I interned at last summer. But Monday was fairly uneventful, as we didn’t have much to do.

Tuesday and Wednesday also had meetings, although not as much, and they started us on a brief. I was afraid that I’d lost some of it having not done any ideation in a while, but I quickly fell right back into it, and knocked out idea after idea for guerilla, print, and even a radio spot with, as ever, a trusted Sharpie. It felt good.

Now here’s where I am both immensely relieved and amazed and a little sad, too. The positive feelings, because, oh my goodness, this is how it’s supposed to be–in college, we of course had to do it all. We may get a short brief, but we would have to do extensive research on our own, research what ideas have already been done so there’s no danger of accidentally copying anything, come up with a ton of ideas, generate a ton of headlines and body copy if needed, settle on the best ideas and text, make rough comps to critique, shoot the final ourselves / set up a time-consuming photo shoot / find that rare and perfect stock and internet imagery, Photoshop it all ourselves, lay it out in InDesign, and then print it. Yeah, as many of you know, our design school education was brutal and very demanding, hence our major lack of sleep.

But now…someone does the research for me. If I ask them to, they’ll look into anything more specifically and give it to me. They look up what’s already been done for me. My fellow intern is writing headlines and copy for me (or maybe later, the other copywriters). In the future, whatever idea the team or the lead art director (for me, a guy named Dax, which is awesome, because when I heard his name my first thought was, “That’s a good font!”) chooses, the production team will Photoshop and lay it out, and even make rough comps if I require. They’ll also print proofs for creative, and another department altogether secures the budgetary stuff, where the ad will run, its submission, etc. OH MY GOSH, that is such a brilliant feeling–that I can just sit there and knock out ideas, and not have to worry about any of that! My intern buddy was similarly amazed, and we often catch ourselves discussing too much into technicalities (such as “Where is it going to run? How do we distribute it?”) that we no longer have to worry about!

But then, the sad part–I’m going to miss the production stuff. I like Photoshopping, and InDesign layout, and typography! 😦 On Thursday, production did a crash course to the different departments about such things as DPI/PPI, bleeds, trim sizes, colour modes (RGB, CMYK, Lab), file formats, and so on (because other departments–though not usually creative because we work so closely with them–were often confused with their terminology and requirements), and I felt super ahead and smart haha.

I am assured, however, that when things are getting closer to being done, I can be involved in production anyway, especially since I told them I can. Yay!

Anyway, early on we already feel we’re helping. The research package was over a 100 pages, but was excellent and detailed, and I came up with about 16 pages of ideas before our first presentation. The other intern and I were anxious about how we were doing; we observed to each other that we knew we could do it from a schooling point of view and be good enough, but how about now? How does our work now stand up in an advertising agency? Is it good enough?

The presentation went very well. I had a few similar ideas to what the creatives already did earlier before I started, which is encouraging because to me, it affirms a little that I can think at their level even if it’s just been done. They were really impressed by the output, and after some feedback, I’ve now got 26 pages of Sharpie squibs (ad lingo for rough sketches). Believe me, as you keep going, it gets harder, and the possibilities narrow and ideas more slowly arrive; every page can typically have from 1 to 4 ideas or variations for me. Now I eagerly await our next meeting!

The other intern and I are working extra hard, because we told each other “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if one of our ideas/headlines makes it to the final stage?” And of course, it would! That’d be a great early accomplishment, because obviously we are striving to make a lasting impression. Already, they are preparing more briefs for us, so we can multitask and not get stuck trying to think of even more for the current project–as I said, it gets hard!

Friday was a nice short day–every Friday, 9-10 am, everyone is encouraged to expand their minds–to read a book, keep current with pop culture or current events, whatever. How cool is that? And then Media had arranged for the company to see Pixar’s Up together at 12:55 pm, so we pretty much finished the day at noon. They paid for the tickets, the snacks, and afterwards, they got us all drinks at a bar before the day ended–I got home a little over 3:30 pm.

Up was amazing–it was touching and original. Go see it!

A few facts:

  • Target has about 40 people.
  • Advertising agencies actually do a bunch of free work, so there are little restrictions–this is pretty much solely done to seek awards.
  • St. John’s and Target is hosting the ICE awards for the first time this September, an event that’s always been in Halifax. They’re this region’s advertising awards, like Calgary’s Anvils.
  • We were told a hilarious story involving our HR manager, Gaye, and how one of the production guys was hired 8 years ago. He’s from Yugoslavia, at the time knew very little English, and walked into the office and boldly stated, “I want a job.” It actually got him an interview with HR, and he was slightly taken aback when he met with her when she shook his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Gaye.” 😀 He admitted later to thinking, “Wow, people are really open here!”
  • The guy/girl ratio here is kinda ridiculous–probably like 10/90. Most of the men are in production, and I’m 1 of 3 in creative. When we met everyone, it was weird to realize just how outnumbered we were! As a result, there is a lot of talk while I work about shopping, shoes, and clothing. ARGH!
  • I now regularly use a Mac, because I’ve been provided with one.
  • Apparently, I am one of very few people who can draw! Having been surrounded by very talented illustrators in college, you forget even the worst of us do pretty well. They really like my squibs, and told me I “have a gift”–if only they knew! I am told that Dax, meanwhile, has trouble enough trying to do stick figures haha.

I will be taking pictures of the company soon, because they said it’d be okay.

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  1. sounds amazing! all you do is generate ideas and you have slaves doing other things?!?!? wow!!!

  2. Haha, I have people! 😀 Naw…not slaves per se, but a department that directly supports the Creative department. And the Production department is important in its own right, because they actually execute a great deal of it.

    Glad to hear Trigger’s moving forward!! Keep me posted!

  3. That sounds awesometacular! And of course you can draw 😉

    I’m glad everything’s gone so well so far, and you’re really getting into it. Maybe you can steer the conversations in another direction somehow, away from shoes and shopping?

    And for visiting – does virtually anytime in August work? I know to try and work in a weekend somewhere, but if I just book something and then let you know will that work? I’m thinking end of the second week/somewhere in the second-to-last week, for probably 3-4 days, depending on schedule. Let me know 🙂

  4. What a great start! 🙂 I’m sure you’ll leave an incredible impression. Haha… I find it funny that the guy/girl ratio is so lopsided though. In my industry (which is very much related to yours) it’s reversed! We should exchange a few people, eh? I have to listen to Basketball updates all day.

  5. Jamie: pretty much! Again, earlier the better, but yes, book something and I’ll make it work!

    Amy: I asked Karen, and apparently it may be due to the Newfoundland oil boom. She said some of the smaller towns are nearly bereft of men, just wives at home with maybe a kid, as the guys go to work the offshore oil rig. Many of the people here are here for that.

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