Dear Future Interns

First and Foremost, Welcome.

Welcome to a group of intelligent, talented, driven, stone-cold weirdos – and that’s just your fellow interns. You are not joining an agency. You are joining a legacy of excellence and, believe it or not, it’s because they see excellence in you that you are here.

Other than excellence, OH will ask a lot of you: your energy, ideas, time (promptly logged in Workamajig, please), and, probably the most intimidating of them all, OH will ask you to complete a group project.

Well, this is not your high school history teacher’s group project. The Capstone is an exciting and terrifying opportunity to contribute to OH beyond the scope of a traditional internship. It allows you to get to know yourself, your teammates, and your own capacity for creativity. In layman’s terms, the Capstone is a group project that doesn’t suck.

If I know one thing about OH, it’s that they like to give a challenge as much as they like to accept one. So while your internship Capstone may be a bit different or even an entirely new beast, we were given a choice: make exceptional companies want to work with us or make exceptional people want to work for us.

The Kick-Off

With almost 10 in our intern group, no decision was an easy one. It took us a week to even decide which challenge we wanted to accept. But, being exceptional people ourselves, we felt it was only appropriate to make the future team of OH our target audience. The first problem we noticed was not a dearth of content, but the exact opposite. There were dozens of amazing ideas floating around at any given moment. Dizzy with excitement and energy, we had too many paths to take with this project. In order to narrow concepts down, we conducted interviews with all four partners, Matt Owens, Scott Harkey, Brad Casper, and Matt Moore, about what the agency meant to them and what they want to communicate to everyone who steps into the office.

Each partner had a very different story to tell about their lives and the life of the agency, each calling out various aspects that inspired them, or that they inspired themselves. We learned about how Scott and Matt O. got this place started, heavily influencing not just what we do and how we do it, but why we do it. Matt M.’s creative leadership coupled with Brad’s people-first mentality shed light on OH’s innate ability to marry chaos and order, creating a commitment to the betterment of OH and the culture that lives within these walls. However, one bit of information we did not have to ask for, willingly given to us and drilled into our intern heads from day one, was our responsibility as people who influence mass media to be literal Agents of Change.

The first path we traveled down was “Agent-C.” (Get it? Agent-C, Agency, Agents of Change? We thought we were so clever.) This was the frontrunner for a majority of the project. Agent-C was meant to represent a Captain Universe-like power felt throughout OH. It was a symbol for being an Agent of Change; rather than going against the grain, we are in an entirely separate cornfield. We drew up mood boards connecting our idea to propaganda themes, positioning OH as leading the rebellion in the Phoenix agency space. For two weeks, we buried ourselves in this idea – until we buried the idea itself.

The last remaining artifacts of our ideas for Agent-C: the mood boards used to show the style and feel that Agent-C would have taken on.

That’s when I learned a valuable lesson and a long-running axiom in the ad business: You cannot get so attached to an idea that you’re unwilling to pursue something better. Just because it was a good idea, sometimes even your idea, doesn’t mean it was the right idea. You have to shrink your ego, the time crunch, and sometimes your better judgment to get the results you want.

The Next Phase

This lesson became the Capstone. We took the anxiety and uncertainty of risk-taking, and it’s more nefarious cousin, failure, and made it our mark on the agency. Over the course of three weeks, we built a monument to our biggest fear: failure. CEO Matt Owens could talk for days about the necessity of failure. He even keeps a sign about it in his office. No one has ever succeeded without failing, it says, so why, we thought, are we so afraid of it? Why is this fear a bad thing? Our goal, from the moment we settled on the gravity of these questions, was to prove that fear is no more than an indicator of passion and a willingness to fail is actually a valuable propensity toward risk.

“Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.” – Sumner Redstone, courtesy of CEO Matt Owens’ office.

The Big Idea

But how do we do this? Well, if we’re going to attract people with a campaign centered on their own fears, we needed to make sure this fear was as obvious to them as it was to us. So, as cynical as it sounds, we developed plans for a haunted house that brought light to the biggest fears college students have when graduating. Will I ever find a job? Will I be good at my job? Will I ever create something remarkable? We turned these fears into rooms in an art gallery-inspired haunted house that would go up on a chosen college campus as a guerilla marketing effort. This would serve as the activation for the Fail Boldly campaign.

Once these college students knew what their biggest fear was, the next step was to provide a solution: OH. We wanted to frame OH as the agency that welcomes those unafraid to fail, learn, and fail again on the road to success. The materials used in the campaign served to capture this idea in a static image. It centered on an intern holding an award, standing on a floor crowded with trinkets from former OH campaigns. From Zika Man to Windfall Willie, no one was positive these ideas would pan out, but they were willing to try. They trusted themselves and the team, they embraced fear and failure, and they took a risk that would eventually become one of the myriad reasons for their success.

All of this came together in three weeks. You can’t rush a brilliant idea, but sometimes you have to rush a brilliant execution. Fail Boldly was worth the wait, and the stress.

Speaking of Stress…

Presenting: another ubiquitous fear we tackled. Like many group projects, the PowerPoint was painstakingly finished the night before (read: 2 a.m., the morning of). We ran through the PowerPoint dozens of times the day of, with four of us taking the lead on presenting, as to not overwhelm the audience with different voices.

Fail Boldly made its debut at OH’s quarterly offsite. This is the time for every department to update the company on how and what it has been doing for the last three months as well as what is coming up next. As interns, we were excited to be attending. We were less than thrilled, however, to be presenting to 70+ of our peers and, more intimidatingly, our bosses. If you’ve seen The Found:Re, our host for the offsite and a local hotel, you know its trademark giant ear, Ronna Nemitz’s Listening sculpture. It stands proudly facing the street at the entrance to the hotel, as if it too is ready to judge you.

Photo courtesy of Phoenix New Times in Lynn Trimble’s article following the FOUND:RE’s grand-opening.

After all of the work you put in and all the bumps in the metaphorical road, presenting always seems to be the hardest part of any project. Second only, of course, to the wait before the presentation. As flattered as we were to be the grand finale of the offsite, a literal capstone, I’m pretty sure I lost feeling in my both my shoulders out of anxiety.

Our introduction was greeted with applause, and even though many of our jokes didn’t land and we experienced the obligatory technical difficulty, I would not trade the standing ovation we received and the sense of pride we felt after sharing our Capstone and finally answering the one question that had been buzzing through the office all Summer long: “What are the interns using my baseball bat, Windfall Willie head, Telly award, football helmet, etc. for?”

Lessons Learned

The Capstone taught me the importance of teamwork, trusting outside of myself, and the logistics of creating a campaign from scratch. However, beyond anything technical, the Capstone taught me how to put my best work forward. It made me feel special in an office where, due to the brilliance of everyone around you, it is very easy to feel average.

Me, dressed like a young Steve Jobs, with Chase, Matt, Francisco, and Ralphy’s elbow.

All of us were so intent on blowing everyone away that we surpassed our own expectations for the project. We found truth in research and humility in excellence. Do not mistake your humility for mediocrity. It is a naturally, and overwhelmingly, humbling experience to be a part of something amazing, which you are.

There is a palpable upward mobility at OH that motivates you to be better than you thought possible, with an unmatched excitement buzzing through the office. Because, while OH Partners asks a lot of you, it also gives you a taste of how excellent you truly are and truly can be.