Support Marketplace

Summer interns as art installation

Sign outside the Havas Chicago office: Do not pet the interns

Signs like the one above, in the windows of Havas Chicago's street-level lobby, framed the interns working inside as something between a zoo exhibit and performance art. Another called the program "A commentary on the tectonic struggle between Millennial ambition and the modern agency infrastructure."

 

The Chicago office of ad agency Havas Worldwide uses its lobby as a gallery, with picture windows facing the street. This summer’s exhibit: The company’s interns, doing their jobs, working around a long black table. Signs in the windows — like the one that said “feeding the interns is permitted and appreciated” — suggested a zoo exhibit as much as performance art.

The interns made out like working in public view was no big deal.

"Like every now and then we’ll look up when there’s like people peering through between the signs, trying to figure out what’s going on," Tori Dubray said.

That might be because they applied for the job — or the right word may be "auditioned" for it — in public.

"This year’s internship program was entirely cast and recruited through Instagram," said Jason Peterson, who runs the 500-person office and designed the internship.

To apply, potential interns posted to Instagram.

"It was a hashtag, Iamheretotakeyourjob," said intern Chris Hainey. That’s I. Am. Here. To. Take. Your. Job. "So, basically you challenged an employee that works here, and kind of posted something on Instagram saying why you would be better-suited for the position."

Hainey posted a stop-motion video — it showed an airplane flying in front of a colorful line of suitcases — with a suggestion that current Havas workers start packing.

Photography student Anna Russett took a different route. Havas offered two internships to people who could show they had more than 50,000 Instagram followers. When we met, she was at 111,000.

"That’s basically my resume," she said. "Showing that I can gain that many followers." 

She applied through a smartphone app called Popular Pays — a startup with offices at Havas. Popular Pays allows users get free stuff from local businesses if they agree to post photos of those rewards to a big enough group of Instagram followers.

"That’s currency," Peterson said, "because I can go into Antique Taco and I can go:  OK,  because I have a thousand followers, I can exchange that currency for a free milkshake."

"You will share that photo with that amount of people," Russett said. "Like, guaranteed."

This prompted a question: "So, you’re saying, like:  I will pimp myself out to a hundred thousand people for a milkshake?"

"Well…" Russett began. 

Peterson interrupted, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. First of all, have you been to Antique Taco? It’s a horchata milkshake? It’s delicious!"

Among the interns’ duties this summer: Coaching Havas employees on making better use of social media.  

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...