Research Associate Alumni Catch-Up: Peter Coffey, Junior Copywriter, Leo Burnett

At kglobal, we pride ourselves on our robust Internship Program. More than a 3-month temporary gig, our kglobal Research Associates are intimately part of a dynamic, exciting experience in the heart of the nation’s capital. I often get messages from former Research Associates letting me know how they’re still benefiting from their stint at kglobal, two, three, even four years removed.

I recently* caught up with Peter Coffey, a Research Associate who was later promoted to a Creative Consultant role for one of our marquee clients. Peter’s now a Junior Copywriter at Arc Worldwide, a division of Leo Burnett, a leading advertising agency. Peter is also a comedian by night and has been bumped off the set list before in favor of comedians with verified blue checkmarks on Twitter.

Joe: Hey, Peter.

Peter: Hey, Joe, my favorite kglobal employee. (Ed. note: This interaction may not have happened but everything else after is copied more or less verbatim.)

How’d you get your internship at kglobal? What drew you to it?

In college, I changed my focus of my major to Public Relations in the spring semester of my sophomore year. I knew one of the employees at kglobal and emailed Claire [a former Account Executive] about internship openings. I remember my interview—I had forgotten to bring home my nice clothes from college so was wearing an old pair of pants and a pink shirt that was too small.

This… does not surprise me. When did you intern?

The summer of 2012. Almost four years ago. I started in May and was the first intern there for a month or so since the rest of my class was still finishing up their spring semester.

What did you do during your internship?

I was on a few accounts but the one that really stuck out was for the Georgian election in 2012. We were helping out the opposition party during their Presidential campaign. I worked on copy for the Twitter account. There were several people writing the tweets and, after I returned from vacation, the lead on the account told me that none of the tweets were any good while I was gone. It was the first time where I realized I was onto something with copywriting. I ended up taking on a majority of the social workload on that account and loved it.

Any particular memory that really sticks out for you?

Sometime in mid-July, two months into my internship, we were in a staff meeting and talking about the Georgia Twitter account. Randy [a Partner at kglobal] said something along the lines of “Well, Peter’s one of the most creative people on this account.” To hear that from someone so high-ranked gave me a lot of confidence in my writing and the work I was producing.

What do you wish you knew as a kglobal intern on your first day?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The staff at kglobal wants you to succeed and would never feel like you were interrupting them for asking what you think may be a silly question. I feel like that was something I was hesitant on doing… at first, I did tasks and submitted them but didn’t ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What happened after your internship?

I stayed on for a few more months helping with the Georgia account, which was awesome since I didn’t have the most experience when I started and felt like I grew even more staying on until the election. (Ed. note: We won!)

Then, about a year and a half later, during my senior year, Randy reached out to me and told me that kglobal won a huge social account focusing on bacon and that they wanted to hire me to be a Creative Consultant. I basically helped create social content.

That’s around when I started.

Yeah, you came in and became the lead on that account. You had all these new ideas and directions for the brand voice and it was great working with you that first year brainstorming and creating content. (Ed note: Peter really did lavish all these compliments on me.) We went from just coming up with tweets and Facebook content to elevating the brand with things brand new to social… Vines, memes, all of it.

What was your favorite part about working on the bacon account?

Just seeing it grow with you. It got to a point where we were getting over a million views and engagements on some of our content. And the two of us got to travel to New York City for the Bacon festival with Jenny [a Partner at kglobal] and the client. I went to a bacon fest by myself in Richmond and ended up on the news and the front page of Reddit. Later, I saw that people were stealing our content and posting it as their own. It was validation that what I was doing was worthwhile.

And… I mean… really, the account has blown up even more. We have over 100,000 people now and I was with you when we had zero. It’s great to know that I can go online, see what you all are doing on social, and say that I helped build that.

Yeah, that’s one of the awesome things and what we really look for in our Research Associates. Self-starters and people who have ideas, especially if they’re as wild and crazy as yours were.

Without kglobal, I would not be where I am right now. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s true. My coworkers and mentors at kglobal really helped me learn and help realize what I was good at. They helped me build my strengths while helping me with my weaknesses. And I found out what I excelled in.

And you work at Leo Burnett now, right? Why Leo Burnett?

Everything copywriting-based in DC relates back to the government and affecting policy and I just didn’t want to do that. I wanted something more commercial and less public affairs-y. I moved from DC to Chicago and got a job at Arc as a Copywriter. Arc is retail-based advertising, like displays in-store. They’re part of Leo Burnett.

What does a day at work look like for you?

In the morning, I try to catch up on latest trends and seeing what people are talking about. It helps me come up with content.

Then, I’ll get a Creative Brief on new projects. A Creative Brief is put together by our awesome account team. It lets the creatives know what the clients want and the direction without spelling out exact things. It leaves creativity up to the creatives but also gives us specific restrictions.

If I don’t have a Creative Brief, I might have a check-up with my boss. She’ll check in and give me guidance and critique. One of the great things about working at a creative agency is that there’s no judgment about how you work. I find that I write better freehand on paper without lines. Everyone does things differently here. It’s great. I have a bunch of stacks and papers and notes and thoughts. And that’s when I create a copy deck… it’s an outline of the ideas.

I always like to leave the designing up to my art director. A lot of the time we sit together and talk about what we’re envisioning and he’ll bring it to life. It’s kinda like what you and I did at kglobal… adding our own elements about what might and might not work. The end result is something we both agree on.

What did you learn at kglobal that helped you at Leo Burnett?

It goes back to the whole thing to not be afraid to ask questions. People around you want you to succeed. If you create good work, everyone wins. Don’t be afraid to ask from people way above you. Take advantage of that. That said, you should challenge yourself to do it on your own first.

Peter was a Research Associate in the summer of 2012 and was a Creative Consultant for kglobal for 1.5 years. Now, he’s on the MillerCoors team at Arc/Leo Burnett. Want to be the next Peter? Interested in joining one of the brightest, fastest-growing firms in the city? Get in touch and apply on our Internship Page.

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