Dear Future Intern

This is for that intern who is lying awake the night before their first day at HLK terrified for what’s ahead. So basically all of you. Since it is my last day here at HLK and I have learned so much about the in’s and out’s of the building these past six weeks, I’d love to share my knowledge with the future Launchpad Interns.

You may be nervous, but that’s probably not you shaking. Big diesels, a strong wind, and traffic from the highway all cause the south side of the building to be in a pretty constant state of tremors. So if you are sitting in your chair and you feel like you are literally shaking, you are. But it’s not because you are so nervous you body is going into fight or flight mode, so relax and enjoy the vibrations that will soon become almost comforting at times.

Say hi. To everyone. All the time. HLK holds some of the warmest, kindest people I have ever met. So don’t hide away in a room somewhere and never talk to them. Say good morning to Janice because she is an angel. Say hi to people when you run into them in the kitchen which is like the watering hole of HLK. I recommend working out in the booths the first couple weeks at least. You will always run into new people to meet! This internship is about learning about agency life, yes, but it is also a great place to make connections that will last long past your six weeks here.

Do work. If you have nothing to do, find something to do. HLK does not make the interns work 40 hours a week, we work 25, which means that you have to take advantage of the opportunities here to learn as much as you can. Spend your 25 hours a week working on your client and your campaign project but then stay late and ask if you can sit in on meetings. Make yourself known in the workplace.

Make them remember you. Even if it’s for riding the bike. You are only here for six weeks, which means that you have to make a good impression decently quickly. If you have graduated, you are hoping to get a job at the end of this, so treat it as a verrrrryyy long interview process. If you haven’t graduated, you want them to be able to remember you in a year (or two) when you will definitely be coming back here to get a job. Because who wouldn’t want to be a true HLKer?

Be curious. Be thoughtful. Be brave. Those aren’t just silly tagline that HLK uses, they are something that you need to try to implement into your work on a daily basis (and honestly your life too). You are only here for a short period of time, so dive in, take chances and have fun.

I hope this helps out a little with your first day (first week) nerves. Read through the rest of the blog for other tips such as what to wear on your first day at HLK. Take a deep breath because you can do this. Trust me if us adstronauts can handle this, so you can you.

Good luck,
Current Intern

HLK: Secretly a Five-Star Resort?

Sometimes you just need a getaway. You’re craving a vacation from the stack of stress piling up on your desk. Your morning routine consists of finding a new beach picture for your desktop background and checking Carnival Cruise prices religiously. If the Piña Colada in your coffee cup isn’t enough of an indication, you’re in need of some serious R&R. But there’s one problem: it’s only mid-June and you’ve already wasted a year’s-worth of PTO building Ikea furniture and binge-watching LOST for the 11th time.

Keep your head up, Sailor. I’m here to help. You can enjoy all of the perks of an exotic getaway, right here within the walls of the HLK office building. So, grab your sunglasses, but maybe leave your Speedo at home, because we’re going to give you the “Ultimate HLK Staycation.”

Welcome, welcome! We’re so excited to have you here at the marvelous HLK resort. Let’s take the elevator up to the Mezzanine to begin the tour.

First Stop: The Mezzanine

Look at that Skyline! Start your day with a rooftop “Sun Salutation” on the Mezzanine. Watch the sunrise over the Mississippi to the tune of I-44 rush hour traffic. Breathe in the blend of aromas wafting from the Purina and Tums buildings. If your favorite episode of Friends was, “The One with the Soap Opera Party” you’re in luck; if you squint your eyes (really really tight), it almost feels like the Mezzanine is the swank rooftop party of your sitcom fantasies.

Next Stop: The Third Floor “Lounge”

Here we are. Long luxurious couches, a fireplace, and a spectacular view of the parking lot: this is the posh nightclub you always wished you could get into. Think “Night at the Roxbury” except all of the club-goers are just Appistry programmers eating chicken salad and the bar only has Pepsi and OJ. This also a perfect place to get work done (or a nap with some heavy-duty earplugs and an eye mask).

Third stop: State-of-the-Art Basketball Court

Basketball season is over and you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’ve been replaying Kyrie’s Game 7 last-minute 3-point jumper in your head for weeks. You’ve been practicing your shot throwing away Taco Bell wrappers into the trash can, but your colleagues aren’t very happy with the amount of Diablo sauce on the floor. Your form is trash. But we can fix that. Look no further than the Third-Floor Basketball Court. Get some “real-life” basketball experience on this hardwood court. Set screens with actual desktop screens, shoot free’s from a masking tape line, practice your 360 spin move around a color copier…this kind of equipment could make Steph Curry jealous.

Fourth-Stop: 5 Star Restaurant

Speaking of the Chef, our fourth stop is the gourmet kitchen on the second floor. Filled with cozy booths, mood lighting, and TWO fully stocked fridges (unless it’s Friday night and Janice emptied them out…); this kitchen is everything your growling tummy could ask for. Treat yourself to your coworker’s pasta salad and a coffee, munch on some leftover Rally’s (that would be mine), or microwave some week-old tilapia if you’re not looking to make any friends in your office pod. If you’re in a hurry, shove your hands in the “jar of fun” and if you’re lucky you’ll get a fruit roll-up. Be sure to make a reservation because tables fill up quickly.

Fifth Stop: Sauna & Gym

The final stop of our tour is deep within the subterranean levels of the resort. Ignore the signs that say “Media Room,” I don’t know what that’s all about. This is our sauna. But sometimes it’s our freezer. This room has a mind of its own. Don’t even try changing the temperature, this room will either have you sweating or shivering and there’s no in-between. You’ll also experience some much-needed “off-the-grid” quiet time because you’ll never get any Wi-Fi or cell service. If the basketball court and sauna didn’t have you sweating, we have a gym next door where you can tone your muscles, but seeing as the only physical labor in your job description is carrying your laptop to meetings and running away from your problems…you should be fine without the exercise.

Well, that about does it for our tour! Turn your dreams into reality and enjoy a wonderful vacation at the marvelous HLK resort!

What Actually Gets Used in the Real World

You know that age old saying “I’ll never use this in the real world?” Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you actually use more of it than the you thought. In the ad world, you can have clients who operate in any industry, and you will become a near expert on everything about that company. So, knowing how a seed becomes a plant or where that one city is on a map suddenly becomes handy. Oh, and those acronyms you either learned or made up in your head to pass that one class in your major? You might not want to get rid of those yet. So, here are five things I thought I would never use in the real world, but used in the short six weeks as an intern.


A.U.D.I.E.N.C.E. -

Somewhere in the early days of journalism school, a professor will tell you that this acronym will help you narrow down and build an audience. And you probably sat there thinking “Why would I remember this long acronym. I’m never going to use this.” Week 2 into the internship and I found myself googling the acronym for building a target audience, because not only did I not remember what the letters stood for, but also what the letters were in general. This one acronym makes it a lot easier to think beyond just demographics and psychographics of an audience to really put yourself into their shoes, which, trust me, helps a lot when you’re struggling for that big idea.

The 5 Why’s -

I had a management professor who spent a good three hours lecturing on the 5 why’s and how it helps one problem solve. Admittedly, I may have scrolled through countless social media apps on my phone while it lay hidden behind a notebook, but that topic would soon become a reoccurring theme. A month later, my mass media research professor started asking why to nearly every student answer in class (Yes, it drove us all nuts). And here I am as an intern doing that same exact thing.

In particular, the 5 why’s is a method to discover the actual problem and not the surface level one. Let’s say the problem is that Coffee Shop A doesn’t have enough sales, so they ask you to create a campaign that will increase sales. Start off by asking why sales are low and then ask why after every answer; the end result is the actual problem.


Segment. Target. Position. Although I remembered this acronym, I do also remember sitting in class wondering if real world people sat down and did this or just went through the motions of it. Week 4 and I’m sitting at my computer typing STP into a google doc. If you have a new product or a new campaign objective compared to what the client has done in the past, this really helps you figure out what makes them so great, because you obviously know why the client is amazing, but their target audience may not.

Math -

If you majored in journalism, I guarantee you thought you would never use math. Wrong, but don’t worry. It’s not the really hard calculus stuff, but basic math and those annoying worded math problems suddenly become real. All you really need to know is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. (That’s a lot, I know). The catch is that sometimes you have to use all of that just to get one number, and if you are like me, you haven’t done that in two or three years.

Even worse: time sheets. You will have to figure out how to add up hours, and for some of us it is really difficult adding hours when numbers are on a scale of ten and hours go up to twelve. If you have no idea what I tried to explain there, then consider yourself lucky, because you don’t suffer from this problem. Hint: google time calculator to help you.

SWOT Analysis -

I cannot tell you how many SWOT analyses I have done in my life, but college will not be the end. It’s not just an exercise to get you thinking like the advertiser and not the consumer; it’s a process that helps build a campaign. Shortly after receiving our first creative brief, we found ourselves repeating and bickering with one another because we all knew the same thing but no one had written it down. So SWOT analysis went up on the very helpful whiteboard in the Launchpad room.

On a side note, during our first client pitch, the client told us how refreshing it was to see a SWOT analysis as he hadn’t seen one in years. Either it normally gets excluded from the presentation or simply goes unused, but either way it is very helpful and we interns recommend it.


I mainly showed you guys just the things that come from your major courses here, but in reality you never know what client you’ll have in the future. So, try to remember the random facts in that bio class you took as a gen ed freshman year or maybe keep that notebook from the one history course you almost always fell asleep in, because it might just be handy somewhere down the line.  


Our Team Name Was Almost "Turbopump"

One of our first tasks on the job as Launchpad interns was to develop a team name. After deciding to stick with the celestial theme developed by Nebula in Cycle 1, the brainstorming started. Highlights included: 

  • Googling “space words”
  • Desperately trying to comprehend the meaning of these “space words”    
  • Struggling to pronounce these “space words” correctly
  • Briefly considering the name “Turbopump”
  • ...and finally, settling on our name for the next six weeks:

Quasar [kwey-zahr, -zer, -sahr, -ser]

After watching most of the reboot of Cosmos from the DVR at my parents house and clicking through some Wikipedia pages, I feel like I’m at least a little bit qualified to explain what a quasar is. 


They’re unique. Existing somewhere in the realm of celestial bodies between a star and a galaxy, quasars have become their own type of celestial body: they’re quasi-stellar. 

They’re bright. Even though quasars exist millions of light years away from us, here on puny old Earth, they’re still some of the brightest objects in the night sky. 

They’re strong. Nestled into the center of galaxies, quasars typically surround supermassive black holes. But even in the company of objects with incredible gravitational pull, quasars still manage to shine bright. 

They’re young and active. Quasars are usually found around young and active galaxies. Sure, they’re still probably billions of years old, but compared to the rest of the universe, they aren’t a day over 23. 


If you haven’t already noticed the obvious comparison I’ve tried to outline, us interns can be described in the same way. We’re unique. We’re bright. We’re strong. And we’re definitely young and active. Just as quasars found their own place in the expansive universe, we’re in the process of finding ours. And HLK is a good place to start. 


P.S. - Rumor has it we might have picked Quasar as the team name strictly because it’s kind of a cool word. We’ll neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

All Systems Go

After getting cleared for takeoff, Launchpad’s second cycle is off the ground! Although the first week consisted mostly of meetings and copious amounts of coffee, Team Quasar is off to a strong start. We were able to learn a bit about the dynamics of each department here at HLK, pick the brains of our mentors and view some past work before being assigned our first client brief. We learned about everything from time management to industry lingo, as well as a bit about our mentors themselves.

The great thing about the Launchpad Internship is that our mentors are different each session, demonstrating the depth of knowledge and skills that each employee exhibits here at HLK.

Since last cycle has already acquainted you with the dogs of the office, we thought it was time we introduced you to their owners. You know, a few of the people that actually make things happen around here.

Without further ado, we present you with this session’s Mission Control.

Cecilia, Account Management Mentor for Stephanie

• With 14+ years of marketing & advertising experience, Cecilia is proof that positions are earned through dedication to client relationships and long hours, not just something your entitled to upon graduation.

• As a liaison between client and agency, it is important to be able to defend the agency’s work. Have a rationale. Have answers for the client.

• A "retainer" is a word that refers to a client that pays on a regular basis rather than a project basis.

Ross, Art Direction Mentor for Justin


• When told that ‘your brief is showing’ it means that your creative execution is literally a repetition of your strategy: this is a big no-no.

• As an Associate Creative Director, he claims that the most rewarding aspect of his job is being pleasantly surprised by creative ideas from his team even more than seeing his own work come alive.

• Ross is actually his middle name. He walks exceptionally fast. He's a Webster University alumnus and also has experience with the Webster University account.

Jamie, Content Development Mentor for Lauren

• If you ask her a question, don't expect an answer because she will probably answer by asking you a question.

• She believes the content team could benefit from organization similar to the workings of a newsroom.

• She’s done almost everything. Before taking a content role, she worked in account management. She also has experience with strategy, media planning and buying, research, analytics… the list goes on.

Patrick, Strategy Mentor for Jenny

• Patrick seems to know when he has shifted too far off-topic and will stop mid-sentence and say “..but that's a story for another time..”

• The most important consideration for a strategist? Stay objective.

• Claims the 80/20 rule inspired by Pareto's Principle is a great time management philosophy, but that's a story for another time.

Andrea, Research & Analytics Mentor for Emily

• Targeting philosophy is to find the BEST people at the CHEAPEST cost.

• The transparency that an analytics dashboard provides is often scary to the client.

• She stresses the importance of the ability to work with a wide variety of personalities, not taking anything too personally and listening well, all of which are vital for success in this business.


Jill, Media Buying & Placement Mentor for all

• She's very sad that HLK does not currently have a media intern, but she gets all of us instead!

• Media people really do get to meet cool people sometimes (Jimmy Fallon, for example.)

• Claims the job has truly strengthened her negotiating skills in her personal life.


Maeve, Copywriting Mentor for Nick

Sadly, we did not get to have a one-on-one meet with Maeve, but here are some things we’ve gathered:

• Maeve is a master of voice, both the literary and literal kinds. When she read the HLK philosophy aloud during orientation, all of the interns were moved.

• She’s a part of the HLK volleyball team that plays on Monday nights at Trueman’s.

• Her dog, Murphy, is the only one that has had the courage to approach the Launchpad Intern Room, which is perhaps the official approval we needed.

If there’s one thing that we have learned from our orientation at HLK, it’s that everyone here is incredibly welcoming and more than willing to give each of the interns the best learning experience possible.

Besides a job, what more could one ask for?

No Surprise

This morning the interns got up extra early to help deliver newspapers to everyone in the office. HLK was voted one of the St. Louis Post Dispatch's top places to work in St. Louis and while it's bitter sweet coming on our last day as Launchpad interns, it’s a perfect reminder of how great things can be when your working in a place you love.

Job-hunting can be a long and stressful process but we can take heart in knowing that great work places do exist.  Where you work and the people you work with truly make all the difference. While there are a lot of things I will be taking away from my experience at HLK, I know that is among the top. It's been great working for someplace so great.

Mission Control

I love to learn. I’m always seeking to absorb new information whether it is a newspaper article about recent stock market trends or chatting with my 13-year-old cousin about the pros and cons of Justin Beiber and One Direction. Turns out I’m a Belieber.

My zest for learning is why interning at HLK with their Launchpad program is a perfect fit for me.  The Launchpad program provides experiential learning within a market leading advertising agency. Each day I learn something new about advertising and then I am asked to apply that knowledge to our Launchpad projects.

My favorite aspect of Launchpad is our Mission Control. The Launchpad program places each intern with a mentor in his or her department, or as we call them, our Mission Control. The mentor-mentee piece of Launchpad creates a teacher-student dynamic that is more of a conversation and less of a lecture.  Our mentors offer guidance on our projects, bring us in to help on their projects and are always free to chat and dole out advice. 

As a strategy intern, my mentor is a seasoned strategist who may be one of the smartest people I have ever met, and I’m not just saying that to gain brownie points (but I’ll take them). She brings over 8 years of advertising and strategy experience, and is such a wealth of knowledge that I walk away from each of our 30 minute conversations feeling like I read a 300 page text book.

The role of strategy requires you to find all the pieces of the puzzle, put the puzzle together, and, then, question the puzzle to find what is missing. It is a role that can lead to dead ends, forks in the road, or get you completely lost in the middle of nowhere. While stitching together the strategy for On the Run (our first Launchpad project), I got a little lost trying to go in several directions at once. My first draft of the strategy was a jumbled mess trying to do too much. Luckily, my ‘Mission Control’ was there to ground me. She helped me narrow down a strategy that pinpointed the problem and exacted a solution. In that moment, my mentor taught me an important lesson of how to look at the entire puzzle without ignoring the individual pieces. For a guy like me, who tries to cram in as much information as possible, learning to hone in on the singular was a much needed lesson.

While the Launchpad program pairs each intern with a mentor, I can confidently say that everyone at HLK is a mentor. Everyone at HLK is willing to lend a helping hand and turn our questions into a learning experience.  In just 4 weeks, I have learned more about advertising and strategy than I did in 4 years of college. The Launchpad internship has definitely given me the tools to launch my career in marketing and advertising. 


Today the interns helped pick up and distribute Gus' Pretzels to surprise the staff with a tasty treat after an especially demanding work week. For some in the office, hours have been long and stress levels have been high, but hopefully a free pretzel lifted their spirits. 

The interns love to ride the office trike around whenever we can find an excuse to and today was, of course, a perfect opportunity to load up the trike basket with fresh-baked pretzels, cold soda and beer and parade around the office like a street vendor. Yes, our office has a trike and gives out free pretzels (and it's not even Friday!). I'm always noticing that the work environment here is too good to be true, but not just because of the fun atmosphere. Everyone here is just so... nice. 

It is impressive to see that the higher-ups at HLK really know the importance of showing their appreciation and gratitude for their hard-working employees. From day one, I have seen that people here understand and preach the value of mutual respect. Our first few days here were spent learning about each department of the agency and the work and responsibilities those team members tackle every day. It was a way of instilling appreciation for each department and recognizing that the agency couldn't function the same way without their role.

At HLK, there are frequently simple gestures and planned events that keep morale up, stress low and creativity blooming. Whether it is a staff luncheon, a surprise party for a coworker's 25th work anniversary, or even just an unexpected pretzel, there always seems to be something going on that makes people smile and lets them know they're appreciated.

Advertising is a demanding industry where clients expect the best work under tight deadlines, working overtime is anything but uncommon, and there is a constant pressure to break through the barriers to the next big idea. The culture at HLK eases the challenge. The gratitude that is constantly expressed in this office and the welcoming, pleasant culture are just a couple of reasons why HLK is a wonderful place to work.

Revolution and Reverence

  Beyond the ADDYs 2014 logo

We finally got to have our first beer on the job at Urban Chestnut in the Grove. A cross between a traditional German biergarten and a modern craft brewery, Urban Chestnut has created a “new world meets old world” approach to brewing. Equipped with a European-inspired, walk-up bar and an industrial factory vibe, the brewing company has become a patronage to revolution and reverence. The newly opened Urban Chestnut was the perfect setting for ad agencies in St. Louis to celebrate their award-winning campaigns at “Beyond the ADDYs,” a sold-out event put on by the St. Louis Ad Club. We were excited to get free access to the event and a free lunch, too!

Fresh off the Ameren new business win, HLK’s very own Joe Leahy gave the introductory address followed by presentations from Boxing Clever, Cannonball and Rodgers Townsend. It was an exciting opportunity as interns to hear first-hand how ad agencies formulate and execute a successful campaign, especially as we are in the midst of our own. We received rare insight from the creatives behind the campaigns which made us think and laugh, and inspiration that left us awestruck. As each agency gave commentary on their campaign and walked us through the creative process, we started to learn just how important revolution and reverence could be in this industry.

Coming in wide-eyed and fresh faced to the world of advertising; we are starting to learn that you need both revolution and reverence to be a successful agency. Of course, advertising is about revolution. No one gets to the top by staying the same. Changing our tools and thinking are necessary to any agency’s survival. Without it, we would be in the advertising graveyard of lost potential and hopeless causes. But you also have to never forget where you came from and always be inspired. That’s where reverence comes into play. Sometimes that just means coming together over a beer to celebrate ideas that are bigger than yourself, your agency, and maybe even the industry itself.

Welcome to Launchpad

We’ve been a team for just one week, but the Launchpad interns are meshing and collaborating nicely. There are six of us: Account Management Intern Miranda Lopez, Art Direction Intern Justin Tolliver, Content Development Intern Liza Poskin (that's me), Copywriting Intern Molly Gingrich, Research and Analytics Intern Lindsey Wolfgang, and Strategy Intern Philip Azar. We have branded ourselves as team Nebula, named after the interstellar clouds where stars are born. We like to think we’re clever. Our mission is not only to help launch Launchpad and make a name for the program, but also to take on real client projects. Along the way, we are guided by “Mission Control,” or mentors from each department at HLK specifically assigned to guide and teach each intern.

In our first week, we went through a couple days of orientation and introduction to HLK before getting down to business. We got to meet the partners and learn a little history of The Hughes Group before it became HLK. We've met so many people already from all of the different departments and got the chance to sit down with each team individually to get insight into their jobs and a better feel for each department's role in the overall process. We've learned that in order to work together as a high-functioning team, it is important to understand what goes into each department's work. Learning about each position creates a level of mutual respect that helps foster group success. On our third day in the office, we got another chance to network at a fun and delicious lunchtime potluck. 

We are currently most excited/overwhelmed with the fact that we were given our first assignment for the local convenience store, On the Run. Our task is daunting, but full of possibilities. Team Nebula is up for the challenge and ready to work!

Keep reading to hear from each of the six Launchpad interns over the next few weeks.

The Launchpad team pretending to be rockets after our first day in the office (not pictured: Lindsey Wolfgang).