Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Intern for rent: putting a price on talent

"It's like having your own mini CP+B"

So says the eBay listing for Crispin, Porter + Bogusky's Intern Auction (here)

Alex Bogusky posted a link to this on his twitter feed. (Having found a use for Twitter, apparently, after tweeting that he didn't get it earlier this year). The bidding, which is currently at $10,099.00, entitles the winner to: 

"...receive a creative presentation developed by our interns over a three month period, consisting of strategies, recommended brand positioning and concepts."

The bid amount goes to the intern(s) that do the work as a bonus of sorts, in addition to whatever intern salary they would otherwise make. It's an interesting and creative concept in building buzz for services and in connecting internships with real, paying customers...

So What Else?

Beyond the interesting-to-an-agency approach to filling out the intern's dance card, the idea is the latest in a number of services-as-commodity strategies. Sites like
elance,  crowdspring and others (prior post here) all bring bidders and buyers of creative, marketing and other services together in a managed bid-response mechanism. In these environments, though, the vast majority of service sellers are independents or small organizations.

CPB's eBay approach is interesting for a couple of questions it raises:

What about reputation? CPB has no seller's history on eBay.  As such, they have no reputation scoring or buyer feedback in eBay. These essential elements of trust online mean one must rely on the reputation of CPB as defined elsewhere (in the press, via awards) to assess just what makes an intern at CPB worth more than, say, an intern from other sources. There is also the issue of CPB's overall trustworthiness that must be vetted thru more traditional methods (the CPB-created Burger King is kind of creepy afterall!). 

What's a strategic plan worth? The final bid will put a price on what is arguably the last thing an agency would want commoditized...the strategic plan that drives the advertising. Perhaps the expectation is set that getting a "mini CPB" means you are bidding on similarly-sized ideas?. But if the CPB kid's meal costs what AgencyX Whoppers do, where does that leave the overall market value of the strategic plan?

In the end (the auction ends tomorrow), the intern auction is an interesting twist on Services listings (like Craig's List), where the pricing is transparent and the bidding is open to anyone with a PayPal account. What remains to be seen is just where the current market values strategic planning by interns...or  even if this is a belated CP+B April Fool's joke. 

I suspect we'll also know where the economy is really headed when agencies and other companies begin reverse-auctioning interviews for their open positions. 

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