The camera pans across the office and lands on a young ingénue. She weaves between the various secretarial desks arranged in the large central space of the office, clutching a small box of personal possessions with which she will adorn her own desk. The men of Sterling Cooper gather around the perimeter to gawk at Peggy Olson, who is unaware that this will be her first day as Don Draper’s personal assistant--
Okay, so my externship experience was by no means analogous to Peggy Olson’s introductory scene in the premiere episode of AMC’s Mad Men. But it is approximately representative of my familiarity with advertising when I applied for a winter externship with Cooke & Co., a marketing start up located in Brooklyn, New York and founded by the supremely cool Steve Wax ’65. My existence is surprisingly divorced from the deluge of advertising media some people may experience. There are no commercial breaks on Netflix, I was an early adopter of AdBlock, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a physical piece of print media. Figuratively, I was Peggy Olson on her first day at Sterling Cooper, and literally, all that I knew of advertising was Peggy Olson’s character arch from secretary to senior copywriter.
I can tell you now that Cooke & Co. is nothing like Sterling Cooper, and modern marketing has come a long way since Don Draper. The scope of marketing has expanded from print, radio, and brief television commercials to websites, social media, and beyond. In many ways, advertising platforms are more accessible to brands than ever before, and perhaps as a result, the “market” is a bit saturated. Thus, the need for brands to differentiate both themselves and the ways in which they engage with their audiences has become extremely pronounced.
In turn, the work that companies like Cooke & Co. do has changed immensely. No longer is marketing just a second thought in an overall business scheme, but an integrated part of the whole. From naming the company and creating the logo to defining style guides to managing social media accounts, there’s a wide range of work that falls under the umbrella of “marketing”. More and more marketing has become a primary avenue for problem solving for companies that desire to reposition themselves or otherwise reach new demographics.
During my two weeks at Cooke & Co., I was given the opportunity to participate in many, varied projects that fell under the umbrella of “marketing”. I performed an audit of a client’s current social media strategy; I brainstormed taglines for a client’s upcoming event; I consolidated existing research on a client’s demographics and created comprehensive notes; I took and retouched pictures for a client’s social media accounts; and I did quite a bit of proof reading. My biggest project was managing a social media account for a client, which involved a lot of preliminary research of similar companies and their respective social media presences, a purge and reorganization of the existing account, building up the content, and writing a small amount of rough copy. Though I didn’t discover hidden copywriting talents a la Peggy’s “basket of kisses” for Belle Jolie lipstick (from the Mad Men episode “Babylon”), I by no means felt like season one Peggy at any point during my time at Cooke & Co. (Steve Wax is also by no means Don Draper, he’s much, much cooler in a very Reed specific way).
(I would be remiss not to acknowledge all of the other great people at Cooke & Co. who did not graduate from Reed but were very cool nonetheless. Additionally, many, many eternal thanks to Ken Simpson, Arlene Boop, parents of Reed grad Jonah ’10, and their lovely cats, Cyrus and Major Gray, who hosted me in their wonderful home!)