August 8, 2007

‘In My Own Words’: Sarah Belliotti ’09 goes for the Jugular

Philosophy major spent her summer learning about the advertising field with Scott Lackey ’74

Sarah Belliotti ’09 (Buffalo, N.Y.) is a Marquis Scholar and a philosophy major. She spent eight weeks over the summer as an intern with Scott Lackey ’74, the co-founder/strategic director of Jugular advertising agency in New York City. The following is a first-person account of her experiences.

  • In a first-person article, Lackey gives his perspective on the internship.
  • Lackey is profiled on the alumni web site.

Good internships reveal something about how the world works and how one might fit into that world. However it seems as though most undergraduates are sure that it is merely a stepping stone on the way to a career in that particular field–in many cases a deciding vote for those on the fence between two paths.

I have had my fair share of possible paths: an internship at an art gallery, an externship with a lawyer, shadowing surgeons, working with a pastry chef, and now I was going to try advertising on for size to see if I would finally find some direction of where I wanted to take my life. That was the way I thought it worked; I would keep trying fields until one of them fit and then I’d know that I could spend the rest of my life doing whatever it happened to be.

On my way to the interview, I completely talked myself out of advertising. I had always wanted to help people – work in the non-profit world, volunteer, do something meaningful. Advertising just didn’t seem to fit in with this semblance of a plan that I had created for myself. It was all about tricking people and using their emotions to make them consume more products and services; it just wasn’t something I was prepared to be a part of.

All ready to head up to the 18th floor and apologize for wasting their time, I walked into the office, looked around the bright new office and decided to give it just one more chance. Jugular seemed like an exciting place to work and maybe they wouldn’t want me there anyway, which would save me the trouble of my “look, I don’t want to do this” speech.

During the interview, Scott Lackey, the strategic director of Jugular and his business partner, Jeff Griffith, asked me two very important questions, one which showed them that I did have some direction after all and the other that would help to define my experience over the next eight weeks. The defining question: “What did I expect to get out of this internship?” My answer: “something concrete.”

I stuck with Jugular and saved my speech for another day. While working there, I did research on everything from crystal methadone to Google. With every new project, the other intern, Liz, and I became quasi experts on whatever we happened to be researching.

The work was exciting because advertising was about learning how people worked, about the decisions they make, and about what motivates these decisions. It was about doing enough research about a particular field to pinpoint what was important to people, what it was that spoke to who they were or what they wanted, and in some cases needed.

One of our projects was to work on a guerilla advertising campaign at different gay pride events in the city. The client: a medical treatment center for addiction that treats addiction as a brain disease. Using medical treatment instead of a standard 28 day program, the Canterbury Institute is a new solution to an old problem. But as such, they need advertising to reach out to the people who might not otherwise find their particular brand of help.

When a product is truly good, it must be advertised that much better than its morally suspect or less effective counterparts. While I was reading about guerilla marketing in one of the books around the office, I stumbled across all sorts of campaigns that did just that. There were campaigns to help stop censorship in Poland, to help educate women about the sex slave industry in South Africa, and to help stop speeding through school zones in the U.K. The same underlying strategy of how to reach people and how to speak to the thoughts they might already be having was evident in all these ads.

So, did I gain anything concrete from this experience? Well, I am leaving Jugular with a PowerPoint presentation on internet usage among 18-30 year olds, an executive summary on diet supplements, a list of clever gifts including a chicken chucker, and some new ideas about how the world works (which is probably more meaningful to a philosophy major anyway).

And as for the direction, well the second question they asked me at the interview was, “What is your favorite movie?” As I was doing research/perusing through magazines in the office, I stumbled across an article in Men’s Health explaining how that very question shows the interviewer that you can form opinions and make clear decisions, which is a start for the future.

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