Touched Down In London Town: Time to Get to Work!

One of the reasons why I was so interested in studying abroad in London was BU’s London Internship Program. The opportunity to complete an internship internationally was very appealing to me, and I knew it would be a great resume booster. The program is divided into two sections, comprised of taking two courses for the first five weeks in London, and then taking one course and an internship seminar, in addition to completing a four-days-per-week internship for the second half of the semester. A company called EUSA works with students admitted into the program and pairs them with an internship in their area of study or in a field that they are particularly interested in. 

I began meeting with a EUSA in November and received an advisor who was assigned to find me a placement. I expressed to her some of my interests and told her I wanted to work with a global agency. After going through two initial placements, I was finally able to find the perfect internship once I arrived in London. I interviewed at the company and was hired at Wildfire x GREY Global Advertising as a Strategy & Planning Intern!

When it was finally time to begin my internship, I was super excited to work at an agency that considers themselves “experts in consumer driven marketing.” They work directly with GREY London to produce effective social campaigns and strategies for a variety of clients. The clients I worked most closely with were Pringles, Nature Valley, and Morgan Motors. 

During my internship seminar course, I had an opportunity to share my work experience with other marketing and advertising students. I’ve attached images from my slideshow presentation.

I was excited for the opportunity to work at an agency because most of my previous experiences have been in-house. This meant I would be able to learn about and understand different clients’ problems from a variety of perspectives. It was a slow start and interesting adjustment to the office culture in London at first. For example, I didn’t realize that there was no assigned seating in the workspace. The main room consisted of four long rectangular tables that formed a square, and a kitchen stocked to the brim with tea. For the first week, I arrived every day with someone new sitting in the seat I had previously sat in the day before. I was confused, so each day, I asked, “is there a good place for me to sit today?” Finally, a coworker filled me in and told me that I could sit at any empty seat. However, over a period of time, some employees have claimed seats as their own by just continually sitting there time after time. He made me feel better by saying, “don’t worry, I didn’t have a seat here for months when I first started.”

Another aspect I found unclear was when to take lunch and when to leave the office. When I interviewed, my boss explained that the hours I would be working were from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I assumed that those were the regular office hours that everyone worked, but that was not the case. On my first day, I couldn’t find my boss around the office when the clock hit 5:30, and I noticed that practically no one was getting up to leave. I waited until 5:45 and still, no sign of my boss. When the clock hit 6, I finally made the call that I should probably just thank everyone for a great first day and make my way out of the office. 

The next day, my boss explained that whether I could find him or not, I should pack my bags and leave right at 5:30; afterall, he understood that I was an unpaid intern! I was also curious about the lunchtime situation. Some people took a working lunch, some sat at their desks and scrolled through social media on their phones, and others left the building for what seemed like over an hour for a lunch break … What protocol was I supposed to follow? Again, he explained that I could take a lunch break whenever it was convenient for me! Obviously, I wasn’t supposed to skip any assigned meetings, events, or check-ins in my schedule. I was able to take lunch whenever or wherever, as long as I was able to get my work done. I was beginning to LOVE this flexibility!

Even though I was introduced to almost every team member at Wildfire on my first day, I had a really hard time remembering people’s names and positions. I assumed that everyone working there was a full-time employee, but I soon found out that a lot of them were seasonal or freelancers. Many of them would be offered full-time positions after doing enough work for the company, but a lot of the individuals would also come and go depending on projects. 

There were also some generational differences that became clear immediately. When I first arrived and was introduced to the Head of Planning, one of the first things she said to me was, “I’m so glad you’re young, I’m hoping you can teach me about TikTok!” I found this funny because despite being young, I had no knowledge of TikTok. I took it upon myself that night to learn and watch a few TikToks so I could be more knowledgeable on the subject. Good thing I did, because it turned out, everyone on the Wildfire team was hoping I could teach them about the platform and how they could use it with companies that are trying to boost engagement with Gen Z individuals. 

One of my coworkers, Christina, Head of Insights and Social Trends Research in the Strategy and Planning department, became ill and left the office for five days. While it was worrisome that Christina was so ill, my boss asked if I would mind doing some work that she would normally complete. I knew I had big shoes to fill, but I was extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to display my skills and talents for the team during a time of crisis.

After attending a brief from Nature Valley, I began researching ideas to launch a social campaign with experiential marketing components for the summer, in conjunction with the GREY base, which focuses on experiential marketing. I was surprised to find out that practically no one in my office had heard of Nature Valley. Back in the States, the brand is very popular, and I had been eating their bars for years. Upon further research, I realized that Nature Valley is so unheard of in the U.K., that even I have more Instagram followers than their verified account shows. My coworkers were grateful that I had more insight on the product than they did. We even brought in some of the bars for the office to try for the first time!

Since I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement form, there is limited information I am able to share about the project. However, I was able to attend several meetings to discuss the process of the campaign. I gained a better understanding of the inner workings of an agency, did some copywriting, and formulated my ideas into an effective slide deck for the Wildfire team. Once I presented, my ideas were submitted to the creative team for further execution!

I also was able to work on social media strategies for Pringles U.K. As one of the leading “crisps” brands in the U.K., it would be expected that the brand’s social footprint was larger and more engaging with their audience, however, that was not the case. Recently, Pringles has been trying to use a series of memes in their digital marketing, which isn’t working out for them too well, especially because their memes are not very thoughtful, purposeful, or unique. Not to mention, their social media following is very low and they recieve practically no likes or retweets on Twitter. 

We had a phone conference with Pringles to explain why moving away from memes was probably a more effective use of their time and money, but they didn’t seem to understand our reasoning behind that. Instead, we suggested that if they’re trying to appear fun and engaging, they should maybe redirect their focus to creating GIFs. I guess we will see if they decide to take that advice in the next few months. To further our work with Pringles, I devised a social media strategy deck, explaining the role each social channel plays and how Pringles can use them to their advantage. Overall, I presented some overarching social media goals, so that they could redirect and form a more cohesive brand message throughout their social platforms.

My first week at Wildfire marked the first week of major COVID-19 increases throughout the U.K. Everyone in London seemed very calm, and no one was deeply worried about catching the disease, let alone dying from it. The attitude of people in my office was to almost mock the disease, as they thought none of them would catch it. However, my boss’ husband became ill with the virus during my first week, and other coworkers began feeling sick subsequently. In the back of my mind, I started to fear that this situation could worsen and I would be sent home to the U.S.

During my third week at the agency, this fear became a reality. As more people in my office were getting sick and the spread of the virus was increasing globally, Wildfire moved toward working from home. In fact, the entire Johnson Building, where Wildfire and the various Grey groups work, was told by the CEO of WPP to begin working from home starting Friday, March 13th — the same day that the London Internship Program was cancelled. I guess what they say about “Friday the 13th” and bad luck is actually true.

My boss and I had hoped that I would be able to continue working remotely at home in the U.S., but unfortunately, BU and EUSA would not allow this due to visa regulations. Though this was disappointing, I am so happy that I had the opportunity to gain experience working with GREY, the largest advertising company in the world. I received many messages and emails from my colleagues at Wildfire thanking me for my work and complimenting me on the job I had done so far. It was a bittersweet moment, but I left with amazing networking connections, new portfolio content, and an experience that will serve me well in my future career.

Channing Capacchione, Study Abroad Correspondent

Channing Capacchione is a Junior at Boston University in the College of Communication
studying Advertising and minoring in Sociology. Currently, she is studying abroad in London as
she completes courses and an internship. She loves to try the best restaurants, shop around the city, explore the coolest neighborhoods, and find cheeky travel tips! Keep up with Channing as she takes on London and more during her semester abroad.

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