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ZAP Interns Pitch Marketing Plan at McDonald's Global Headquarters

By Keith Morelli

ZAP interns celebrating

TAMPA (August 21, 2018) -- After pitching an impressive marketing plan to an advertising company in South Florida, a couple of USF interns found themselves on an airplane to Chicago the next day to deliver the same pitch to executives at McDonald's.

Having an idea considered by a mega-corporation is the goal of any seasoned advertising/marketing agency, but when the plan bubbles up from interns, well, it's nothing less than astounding. Two of the five-member traveling pitch team are from the USF Zimmerman Advertising Program.

"And that," said ZAP student Emily Minoui, whose efforts helped achieve the honors, "was basically my summer."

It was an internship that included rigorous and difficult challenges, she said, probably the most she's ever been pushed. She and Jheneel Young, both of whom are enrolled in a cohort in ZAP, began the summer as interns for Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale. It's typical for Jordan Zimmerman, who attended USF and who now runs the global advertising agency, to invite promising interns to work for him at the agency. The stint is full time for 12 weeks.

When they got there, Minoui and Young found out that the agency had just landed a portion of the McDonald's account. If they worked on that account and did well, there was a chance McDonald's could find a place for them after graduation, Minoui said.

"If we had this opportunity with a client as huge and as recognized as McDonalds," she said, "we could not disappoint."

Over the first few weeks the interns learned how to gather research to improve McDonald's new online ordering/delivering service, McDelivery. Their job: generate awareness about McDelivery for millennials in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

"We had gotten wind that the other teams were creating these campaigns, but my team had made an entirely new service for McDelivery, along with a campaign and hyperlocal sub-campaigns," she said. "This, in my opinion, completely set us apart from every other team. We were motivated by our content to win."

Pitch day at the agency: Minoui, Young and three others on the team were fourth in line, just before lunch.

"I had never been so focused in my life to know and live and breathe the McDonald's brand so I understood exactly what I was saying to the judges," she said. Half of the judges were from Zimmerman, the other half from corporate McDonald's.

"Our pitch was flawless," she said. "It was such a proud moment for me, my teammates and everyone who encouraged us."

The pitch was aimed at reining in 18-24-year-olds who always hang out in groups, she said, catering to the ... ease of McDelivery.

The time came to announce the winner and it was nerve wracking, she said. The entire agency gathered and ...

"They said it was a tie," Minoui said. It was the first time that has happened in Zimmerman's internship program, she said. But her group was one of the two teams tied for the top honors. Then, a second announcement came. Both teams would head to Chicago the next day to repeat the same pitch for executives at McDonald's Global Headquarters.

"No big deal," Minoui said, with a hint of sarcasm.

The teams flew to Chicago with all the props as carry-ons and prepared for the biggest moment of their lives.

Her team was called up second, but the pitch wasn't as flawless as the day before, she said. Still, the ideas and pitch were sound. The judges deliberated in another room.

"One of them re-enters and says that the vote was split," Minoui said. But after more deliberation Minouli's team was announced as the winner and that McDonald's might use the idea in the future, though there was no guarantee.

"Sobbing," she said, "and a rush of relief. It literally felt like the biggest dopamine rush I had ever received.

Carol Osborne is a marketing instructor and director of ZAP, a highly selective program that admits just 34 students per cohort to earn a bachelor's degree in business advertising and a master's degree in mass communications in one additional year. The program offers strong internship opportunities, where students complete two to three internships before graduating.

Osborne said the work of the interns at McDonald's was beyond impressive.

"Someone will say, 'That looks great on their resumes,' but really, the active work is what matters here," she said. "This incredible opportunity, provided by Zimmerman Advertising, grooms these interns to service accounts worldwide, from dissecting the brief to researching the client, markets, even vetting social media influencers one by one. They develop strategies, position, ideas and create a pitch that's been guided by agency professionals.

"We can fabricate client briefs and pitches in class or bring in a local client for a live brief but we can't give them this type of boot-camp instruction and the awe and glory of pitching a global account and getting the blessing from the marketing chief at the world's 12th largest advertising brand."

She said most advertising programs provide students with occasional live briefs from local clients, which amounts to nothing more than practice runs.

"But to work on a global account and pitch inside their corporate head office is very rare," she said. "And what's crazier, these students only just finished their sophomore year."