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Guest Times: Interns in advertising – Potheads or the next Creative Directors?

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, takes a dig at the superfluous attitude that prevails in the practice of internship

Guest Times: Interns in advertising – Potheads or the next Creative Directors?

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, is acknowledged as a rising star in the creative fraternity. He has started writing a weekly column for and this is his second article. Tongue-in-cheek as always, he takes a dig at the superfluous attitude that prevails in the practice of internship 

October 29, 2012

Advertising agencies seem to have become the new coolest place to hang out for college students during their summer months. Because really, where else can you loaf around the entire day, Facebook for free, go for a trillion cigarette breaks, roll a joint with a senior executive – AND, to top it all, tell everyone you have a job?

It’s an envious deal.

Back when I was a student, summer vacations meant mainly two things: disturbing quantities of alcohol and dubious amounts of debauchery. Sometimes, with the lack of the latter, the ration of the former went up. Equilibrium, after all, must be maintained.

Things have become far more professional these days. Everyone wants ‘something to do’. Nobody wants to sit idle by the banks of a river, smoke a cigarette and lazily watch life pass by. Degrees are the order of the day. Diplomas, short professional courses, internships that pretty up your resume.

“Oh, you spent the summer interning at Ogilvy? Damn, you MUST be good! Let’s hire you straightaway.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. What actually happens (in good agencies) is this:

Creative Director: Oh, you spent your summer interning?

Intern: (Cockily) Yup!

Creative Director: Super! Glad you didn’t waste your time. Got a portfolio?

Intern: Po-what?

Creative Director: Erm, a portfolio? What did you do during the three months you spent there?

Intern: I chilled.

If you’re a Creative Director, or anyone slightly senior in an agency, you know this is true. Every summer, the dams of the agency burst open, and scores of these young, long-haired, cigarette dangling, bracelet wearing, bum hugging, cleavage showing interns pour in. Every single one of them is given a computer, an Internet connection, a bouquet of welcome roses, and a useless person they’re supposed to call a ‘mentor’.

The mentor, in most cases than not, has better things to do. Like watching YouTube videos. Sending out Facebook requests by the pentamillion. Cracking that award winning idea that’ll change his life forever. He doesn’t give a flying flockhard about the interns.

Which is just as well because the interns don’t give a flying fagaraty about him.

At the end of three months, the interns will leave with nothing to show for their internship. And the mentor will move onto another set of interns who he will not mentor.

But not every intern is a pothead. Out of ten interns that walk into the hallowed corridors of an advertising agency, two will have minds sharper than that of the Creative Director. They’ll be hungry, they’ll be hardworking, they’ll be like a mould of soft clay, soaking up everything they see and hear.

They’ll irritate the pants out of the mentor because they want to make “some ads”. They’ll haunt the libraries till the wee hours of the night, hunched over award annuals, trying to learn the craft, trying to understand this strange new world of advertising.

Some Creative Directors will see this spark and offer them a permanent position. Some Creative Directors will see this spark and squeeze every tiny drop of raw creativity out of them till their internship is over. And once that is done, throw them out saying there’s a “hiring freeze”.

In truth, that’s crap. If an agency really wants to hire someone, they’ll figure out ways to.

A few of these bright interns will apply at other agencies. Some will make the mistake of chasing money, and eventually die out. Some slightly more intelligent ones will chase good people, instead of money, and survive the big, bad deceptive world.

These bright young things will flourish. They’ll shine in every agency they go to, clients will be happy, awards will be won. They’ll rise, they’ll rise, and rise quicker than you and me, us the obsolete, us the dinosaurs, us the extinct.

Ten years down the line, they’ll be the Piyushs, the Prasoons, the Dabrals and the Pawars.

And we’ll still be writing column after dastardly column.

(Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, better known in his circles as Bodhi, works as a writer in advertising. Designations aren’t important because he’s realised no matter how up, how low or high middle he is, he just keeps doing the same kind of work. Bodhi has an opinion about almost everything in life, some of which he documents in his blog He also has a charming daughter, and when she’s asleep, he writes at

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