Life as a Senior Citizen Intern at The Richards Group

When Doug McKinlay asked, “Would your agency ever consider hiring a senior citizen for a summer internship?” we said, “Yes.” (After all, from my perspective, he’s not so senior.) Here’s Doug’s story as to why he asked in the first place.

Yes, that would be me. I’m Doug McKinlay, and this past summer, I was arguably the world’s oldest intern. At 71 years old, I started over.

So, why would someone who ran his own advertising agency in Connecticut for 17 years take the “just graduated from college” intern approach? Awkward.

Old jokes aside, I wanted to find out for myself if what I’m teaching as an advertising professor at Brigham Young University is still relevant to what’s going on in today’s industry. Further, could I still compete as a copywriter? My thanks go out to Stan Richards (still one of my role models) for allowing me this short yet poignant privilege.

There is a reason our U.S. presidents take time to visit sites of past tragedies to soak it up for themselves. Somehow, personal experience will always trump a report, even real-time video updates. Fortunately, I’m not in politics, so I don’t have to worry about the next election cycle. Instead, I worry about staying relevant in a hyper-digital environment.

At my age, relevancy definitely matters, especially in advertising – forever a young people’s business. I love the somewhat skeptical look on the sea of fresh faces each semester wondering what they could possibly learn about creative from this – to borrow a term from Star Wars – “old fossil.” Dude, what I know that they don’t…

So, there I was, interning as part of a brand creative group. I started the summer as a copywriter along with one of my student art directors, Skyler Thiot. We were put together as a team with almost five decades of age separation between us. I was the sage, and he was the savvy. But let’s hear from him on our collective experience:

“It was eye-opening to see the world of education and the proverbial real world clash, coming to The Richards Group with Doug. He’s been in the world of advertising for centuries now, seeing the advent of movable type, newspapers, TV, and now the Internet and smartphone apps. I’ve learned that ads are more than just a medium, but it’s the ideas that count.”

Aah…thanks, Skyler. But seriously, movable type?

Back to reality. I was fortunate enough to work on two of the agency’s top pieces of business, Orkin and Auto Club Group (AAA). I learned a ton from our creative group heads, David Morring and Tim Tone. Not so much about the creative process, but instead the creative passion, the constant pushing of concepts from good to better to best. Maybe that’s something that can’t be classroom taught or learned – maybe it can only be experienced.

I also picked up insights into brand planning and brief writing, a discipline at The Richards Group that is as broad, deep, and thorough as I’ve seen anywhere, and no doubt a major reason for the agency’s ongoing success. I had the good fortune to see their planning work firsthand during the client presentation stages and the final workshop outcomes. Inbound BYU ad students, consider yourselves officially on notice.

But the real reason I interned? After receiving Utah’s AAF Silver Award for “lifetime achievement,” I had to at least feign the fact that my productive life in this amazing business is not over. Just ask Stan Richards.

Senior Citizen Intern? I’ll take that.

Categories: 1000 ft. POV, Advertising, Industry, Jobs, Research

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