Intern @Leo Burnett: Getting paid to live in an A/C hostel – Harshveer Jain

By Harshveer Jain, 4th year Engineering Physics student

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Hello! This is the story of my intern at an Ad Agency, which was basically me getting paid to live in an Air-Conditioned hostel.

I am a (very) normal IIT Bombay student.

I am normal with my walk,
I am normal with my talk.
I blend in as easily as a boring wall clock.

Except for, of course, my uncanny knack for rhyming and pointless humour. To me, advertising was always about writing lines and scripts that sold products – which it basically really is all about. But an Ad agency – on the other hand, is something you can only experience – not explain.

In that case, what is the point of this article? Well, let’s say I have some really unique experiences I thought I could share with everyone.

My interest in writing led me to try something different this summer. I just hadn’t imagined exactly how different it would be.

Let’s begin with my first day.
The agency itself looked like a very well-behaved building from the outside. Located in Parel, it was easy to travel to. I entered through the main gate where the words “Leo Burnett” were scribbled across a large pencil hanging from the upper wall. There was a normal looking receptionist at the reception desk, a normal looking mat on the floor and a very very normal staircase leading upto the first floor. Being a little nervous, I took my time to climb the normal stairs.

Before I tell you what happened once I took my final step, let me tell you a little something about the background of my internship (if I can call it that). Leo Burnett does not recruit from engineering colleges. My internship wasn’t organized or even officially recognized by the company. I was just an aberration in their system – totally and completely. No mentor, no buddy, no boss to report to.

It was almost like I was picked up and dropped in a room full of subway sandwiches, excited beyond imagination and dying to explore but not knowing where to start.

So, when I was climbing the staircase, I really had no idea about what was going to happen next.

What did happen was this :
I was received with an astounding applause. Two men hurriedly came forward to greet me. One of them had an almost hungry look on his face while the other was trying to subdue his own greed. They carried me to their aisle where several others like them were staring at me like I was some Russian tennis starlet. The entire office’s attention seemed focused upon me. And then, someone shouted –

“Yeh dekhiye – jawan, gora, chikna, engineer ladka! Naya maal hai. Pehli boli ek hazar ki!”
It was much later that I understood what an intern meant to them – free entertainment.

The word “freshie” comes to mind, except for all the needless anti-ragging rules.

At that moment though, I couldn’t do anything but smile. It was unexpected, alright, but I really hoped it would be a one-day thing. I soon found out that it was a month-long tradition. Everyday, I would enter and would be subjected to public declarations about my engineering background.

“Kyon, tum kya hum pe koi experiment karne aaye ho? Ki chalo, aaj dekh aate hain ki yeh chhote non-IITian keede kaise jeete hain?”

“Kya bhaiya? Yeh hasi kyon hai chehre pe? Reham aata hai hum arts waalo par?”

“Arey Harsh, ek baat batao, tum IIT ke ho na? Mere ghar ka TV kharab ho gaya hai. Sudhaar dogey?”

They were all friendly. They were all funny. And most importantly, it never felt like I was in an office. I would wear shorts and T-Shirts every day. On some days, I would be paraded around wearing my senior’s Barcelona T-shirt only because I had come to the office sporting Madrid’s colours. When we went out for chai and sutta, people would talk about me and gleefully take my case. Being around copywriters meant that everyone was brilliant with one-liners and that I was the butt (a Kim Kardashian sized one, at that) of all jokes.

The work was simple enough. “Client servicing” (the sad, ever-cranky MBA guys) would conduct market research and give us a brief. Another intern and I, along with a newly employed copywriter would come up with an idea. The idea would then be ridiculed and bombed by our senior. He would then present the idea to the Creative Director, who would ridicule it before presenting it to the Executive Creative Director. After the ECD ridiculed the idea, he would present it to the National CD. He would pass it. It would then go to client servicing. After killing out all the politically, socially, morally and generally incorrect humour, the MBA guys would pass it to the client… who would reject it.

We would then waste a week playing FIFA, taking my case, chit-chatting, taking my case, playing CS, taking my case, eating, drinking, taking my case and then finally spending an entire night making our brains bleed out of our eyes, before we would come up with a brilliant idea for an Ad. After this, everyone would relax by taking my case. The idea itself would follow the above mentioned process and the client would say – “No, not working”. Then finally, frustrated, we would present the lamest possible idea and the client would say – “Pehle kyon nahi bataya?” and our work would be done.

Apart from this, there was script-building for movies being screened at Cannes, writing long-copy for-magazine and newspaper ads, writing radio scripts and jingles, going to shoots and recordings and several other common mass media stuff.

In all, I learned a lot, but can’t ever even being to pretend to try to summarize it into substantial words. At best, all I can really say is – “Mera Ad TV pe aaya tha!” and that’s about it.

It was immense fun. Everyone was mighty pleased with their job. There was general laughter in the air. The women were pretty. The men were boys. The idea of a boss was non-existential. Mother and Sister based swear words were always floating in the air. There were NO ties. NO fixed office time. NO dress codes. NO deadlines you couldn’t whistle past. Your work didn’t feel like work. As my senior once said –
“I can be shitting and be working at the same time. Your brain is your office; your thoughts your work. And who knows what shit your client might like.”

Finally, it was a much needed change in environment. It gave me a unique perspective about work and office. It was pure, unadulterated fun. Not one day went by when I would have to make myself go to work. Infact, there were days when I regretted not being able to stay the night.
One last thing. This article is definitely biased. Some of it may be untrue and quite close to fiction. But, I am an advertiser and my job is to make people buy what my client wants to sell and right now, I am selling my agency. I am only doing my job.

Thank you.