Why BBH is recruiting talent outside the marketing industry

the basis of selection of the interns was a blind application process where applicants simply needed to answer five questions.

Students in Singapore often have degree or first-job regrets and face difficulty entering an industry that they do not have any prior education or experience in.

Creative agency BBH wants to change that with its internship programme, called BBH Barn, by recruiting students beyond marketing and communications.

David Webster, the managing director for Singapore at BBH Asia Pacific tells The Drum that everything the students work on is real-life projects in BBH Barn, be it client work or their own passion project on social good.

“There are absolutely no hypothetical situations or fake briefs, giving them a real sense of what the industry is like. In return, they bring in fresh perspectives and energy into the agency,” he adds.

For example, a group of BBH Barn 2019 interns chose to tackle the issue of Singapore’s underlying food insecurity issue with 10-14% or roughly 700,000 Singaporeans currently lack physical and/or economic access to enough safe and nutritious food.

They partnered with NGO, The Food Bank to create a campaign called ‘The Hungry Spoon’, which aimed to create awareness about the food insecurity in the country and raise funds for the organisation.

The campaign uses the symbol of a spoon, with a dollar coin-sized hole in the middle, to highlight the challenges faced by the underprivileged in accessing healthy and nutritious food and showcase how that gap can be plugged with a relatively small donation.

It challenged the target audience, including food influencers, to eat their food using a #HungrySpoon and posting videos of their participation on social platforms. Key partners for this campaign included Veronica Phua, Brand Evangelist at Burpple, and Share Food, an online community for Foodies and Home Cooks.

Meanwhile, the second group of interns focused on the equally important issue of casual sexism like mansplaining, patronising, inappropriate jokes, which are pervasive in day to day interactions between men and women across the world.

The team decided to look at the issue from the perspective of Singaporean university students and created a campaign titled “Stop Observing Silently”.

As part of this campaign, the team collected stories from female university students on their encounters with sexism and turned them into snappy stickers that educate male students, fresh out of National Service, on how to speak out against casual sexism.

The campaign is being pushed out at university orientations through physical packs of stickers while the digital assets have been rolled out on Instagram and messaging app Telegram.

According to the agency, the basis of selection of the interns was a blind application process where applicants simply needed to answer five questions and were chosen based on their thinking without a supporting CV.

They came from disciplines ranging from public policy to philosophy and included a mid-career switcher from a government body.

Interns like Chermaine Tong says she learned that in advertising, no department works in a silo because to produce great campaigns, it is necessary for everyone on the team to pull their weight – from account managers, planners/strategists, creatives and production.

Her fellow intern Zhou Yang agrees and adds: “Barn has given me a clear picture of how the industry functions, its requirements and its demands so I'm mentally prepared for future challenges. It has also taught me to be a better team player, helping me to communicate and work better with different people on different projects.”

For another intern Martien Zulkifli, he says mentors in the BBH Barn internship programme took the time to teach certain skillsets and tools, things like strategic frameworks, case studies, brief outlines and ideation.

“We were then able to take these different tools and apply them directly to our internship Passion Projects. So, in a way it comes full circle,” he adds.

Shara Khoo, an intern who worked on ‘The Hungry Spoon’ campaign said the team faced difficulties in getting the initial traction for their campaign as food insecurity was not a familiar social cause topic to many Singaporeans.

“However, this was also the very reason why we created this campaign. To get publicity, we reached out to well-known content creators and were glad that three of them kindly agreed to support our social cause,” she explains.

Ara Hampartsoumian, the chief executive officer at TBWA\ Group Singapore, previously told The Drum that the future of the creative industry will see the marriage of data, creativity and media drive future growth for clients.

That means while clients still value the big creative ideas, ideas need to be braver and bolder and genuinely contribute to the culture, to earn consumers’ attention.

Webster agrees and adds that it is less about aptitude and more about attitude for creatives. He says at this stage the agency looking for the desire to learn and adapt fast instead of mastering a specialism or skillset.

“This is at the core of the Barn's passion project. We give them a problem to solve (how can you do good famously) and allow them to solve it with some mentoring. They are given free rein to execute their solution, giving them a full agency-client experience,” he explains.

As part of The Drum's Marketer of the Future coverage for 2019, we previously spoke to creative agencies like TBWA, Design Bridge Singapore and McCann Health, as well as schools to learn how they are closing the talent gap in the industry.

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