Do we even need strategy interns anymore?

—ChatGPT and other AI tools are transforming the way the industry works, but that includes how it works with interns, says One Twenty Three West’s Colin Carroll— 

It’s intern season. The time of year when flocks of fresh-faced grads begin working in our industry for the first time, eager to trade their time for a transit pass and a bare bones wage (if they’re one of the lucky ones).

But the thing is, ChatGPT is my intern now. And it’s a good one, too. I’m using it to complete all the tasks I once assigned to humans—whether I need a competitive audit, a SWOT or help finding consumer pain points and category cliches.

It’s helping me with everything from client onboarding to writing briefs, and although it can’t actually do my job, it’s a tool that’s making me better at it.

The best part is its speed, spitting out answers to my bossy requests in a matter of seconds. Does it always give me the right answer? No. But I’ve never worked with a perfect intern either.

As a strategist, I know I’m not the only one in our industry benefiting from ChatGPT and other artificially intelligent tools. Every day I read about clever ways that creatives and account people use them to reduce grunt work and stimulate new thinking. It’s as though we all have access to our very own personal interns, which got me wondering if I’ll ever hire the human kind again.

I believe I will. More than that, I believe I should. Not only because I have a responsibility to train the next generation of strategists and show them how this wild industry works, but because AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing and Midjourney are giving me an opportunity to re-evaluate how I might use future interns differently, in a way that’s better for us and them.

In the future, I’ll still get our interns to do the research I need, but if they’re skilled at AI prompts (and I know they will be, because ad schools are already teaching them how to master it), then that part of the job won’t need to eat up their whole day.

Instead, they’ll have more free time to think through the “so what?” that needs to be asked when presented with new information. More time to shadow people across departments. More time to see how different teams work together. More time brainstorming, reflecting, and sharing unique perspectives informed by their actual lives. They’ll have more time to learn the essential skills of advertising, like collaborating and managing up—the meaningful stuff that AI will never be able to do.

Instead of just doing the work, AI tools could give future interns more time to learn about how the work in the agency gets done.

With that knowledge, they’ll leave their internships more well-rounded and aware of the different roles within the agency. And since they’ll have spent less time sifting through research reports and more time interacting with people in the agency, they’ll have stronger relationships, too.

So let’s embrace these new AI tools and continue using them as personal interns. But let’s not forget about our important role in bringing on, and coaching, the next generation of ad people.

Because we need them even more.

Colin Carroll is a group strategy director at 123w in Toronto. He wrote this column without the assistance of ChatGPT or any interns.  

Illustration created with OpenAI’s Dall•E•2