Name: Christina Pfaff
Hometown:
Winnetka, Ill.  
Academics:
Leadership studies with a concentration in mass communications and behavior and a minor in Latin American and Iberian studies
Internship:
Arnold Worldwide
Career aspiration:
Marketing, advertising, public relations
On-campus activities: Programming & Communications Assistant for the Jepson School; Risk Chair, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority; ESL tutor, Tuckahoe Middle School
Interests and passions: Pop culture, design, reading, writing, innovation, music, meeting people, foreign study, Spanish

What drew you to this particular organization?

The culture of Arnold struck me as really creative and collaborative, two essentials in a successful agency. Arnold has major accounts like McDonald's, Volvo, Amtrak, Progressive, and Jack Daniels, and has even won awards for the renowned and provocative "Truth" (anti-smoking) campaign. The atmosphere seemed to be “work hard, play hard” which was attractive to me.

How did you land the internship?

Landing the internship involved a long process involving a lot of applications. Through websites and referrals, I applied to around 20 advertising agencies or public relations firms, and only heard back from about five of them. Persistence was key. I kept checking back. In the interview process I tried to be myself, but, as advertising is more informal and fun in general, I put thought and creativity into my answers.

What projects are you working on currently?

The account they put me on is their biggest one — McDonald’s. Arnold does all the marketing strategy, research and advertising for the D.C. and Baltimore McDonald's restaurants. I’ve been helping with the launch of Smoothie, monitoring competitors’ promotions, tracking and analyzing my client's promotions, and helping with editing and presentations. I’ve been learning a lot about how the McDonald’s Corp. works, and how it is organized, and what a high standard it sets.  

All the interns are also participating in a project; Arnold wants to see our ideas on how to most effectively market McDonald’s Smoothie to 18 to 24 year olds. This project has allowed me to develop coherent brand strategy and craft creative executions in Photoshop.

Are you finding connections between what you’ve studied in Jepson classes and what you’re learning on the job?

Advertising is extremely team-based, as I work with a team of six other individuals on McDonald’s and two other interns on our intern project. Classes in Jepson like Group Dynamics prepared me well for team-based learning, teaching me to understand how leaders emerge and, while it sounds obvious, the dynamics behind groups. Other useful classes were Critical Thinking, which taught me how to form persuasive, coherent arguments, which are crucial when developing strong and original advertising strategy. Theories and Models also helped me think about the value behind working in a more collaborative, democratic workplace, and I would say Arnold’s atmosphere definitely upholds these tenets.

Is this something that you see yourself doing after graduation? Why? Or how do you see this experience benefitting you in the future?

I’m definitely curious about this career path now, because it combines more formal, serious business with creating executions that incorporate humor and creativity into the job. It’s about working with people to problem-solve and find the most effective way to get your message out there, and ultimately improve sales. My overall understanding of this industry has improved ten-fold. Even if I don’t stick with the ad industry per say, I am very interested in marketing or something similar.

What’s been the most memorable, interesting or surprising part of the internship experience so far?

I was surprised to learn how multifaceted this job is. I thought advertising was a lot simpler; but it’s not really like the way it’s portrayed on “Mad Men.” Every day at Arnold my team faces unique challenges, and needs to think really creatively about why something turned out the way it did. For example, we have to throw out all the milkshake sale numbers from February because D.C. (and Richmond) had that huge snowstorm. But it’s not like anyone told us that, you just have to figure it out on your own. You need to be constantly aware of culture, trends, and the way new technologies are being used. There is a level of sophistication in thinking about so many moving parts that I admire, and totally underestimated before I got here.