Interns Face an Uncertain Summer as 4A’s Scrambles to Go Virtual With MAIP

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At the start of this year, 325 college students found out they’d been accepted to the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, better known as MAIP. The 46-year-old program, run by the nonprofit arm of the 4A’s, is widely respected within the advertising industry, as it’s long helped students from underrepresented backgrounds land internships—and ultimately jobs—at top agencies across the country.

Yet this year’s program is shaping up to be far different due to the spread of Covid-19. Students who were looking forward to interning and networking in a new city are now accepting the fact that they’ll likely be staying put instead, as many agencies have canceled their summer internships because of the pandemic.

For its part, MAIP’s organizers have spent recent weeks scrambling to pull together a “virtual engagement” program for interns, or “fellows” as they’re called, to ensure accepted students will still get some sort of industry experience this summer.

“We really had to pivot quickly to a virtual program with the backdrop of Covid-19,” Simon Fenwick, evp of talent, equity and inclusion at the 4A’s, said. “We needed to demonstrate to the industry our continued commitment around diversity and inclusion. We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that it’s coming together really well.”

Most of the MAIP 2020 interns that Adweek spoke with said they’re grateful that they’ll still have the opportunity to become alumni of the organization, despite the fact that their experience won’t include the usual perks.

“Everyone’s upset, of course, but I’m optimistic. At least they gave us something,” said a student who was supposed to intern at an agency in New York this summer. “I don’t think it’s going to be the same, but we’ll still get the connections, the network and still be considered fellows. I have nothing else to do this summer. I’d rather have a little something to stay busy if I’m not going to New York City.”

Making changes

Of course, the fact that this year’s MAIP interns can no longer rely on compensation from their respective agencies has become a source of frustration. According to Fenwick, roughly 95% of the agencies that were slated to host MAIP fellows this summer have now canceled their internships. While the majority of MAIP’s agency partners have agreed to participate in the virtual program, many will no longer be paying the individual fellows they’d agreed to host this summer before the pandemic hit.

To make up for it, Fenwick said the 4A’s is establishing an “awards program” of sorts that will reward students with a cash payment for completing its online internship, although it’s unclear how much it will be at this time.

Fenwick also said that seven MAIP interns have pulled out of the program because they’ve secured jobs for the summer in light of the circumstances. He noted that much of this year’s programming will be either pre-recorded or take place during the evening to accommodate students who’ve found jobs.

Another pain point that’s cropped up along the way is the fact that MAIP’s organizers chose to announce the move to a virtual program from an article published by trade publication Campaign U.S. instead of telling the interns first. Many students saw the article hours before hearing the news directly through a pre-arranged call the 4A’s had organized with this year’s class, according to one of the MAIP 2020 interns Adweek interviewed.

“We were all kind of blindsided,” they said. “I wish that we knew a little bit ahead of time.”

Fenwick chalked it up to “bad timing” on the 4A’s part, claiming that the organization did not intend to reveal the change via an article in the press.

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