The Internship: An apprenticeship in local internet marketing

The Internship is one of those disposable, Hollywood comedies with a little bit of buddy magic and a little bit of romance.

But one of the very last scenes is worthy of watching if you are a small business skeptical about the role of online marketing.

Far fetched plot

Hollywood comedy veterans, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, are salespeople out of work who conspire to chase their dreams by applying for an internship at Google.

They get it, they are unpopular (being twice the age of the rest of the interns), and have to overcome those odds to succeed.

We’ve seen it all before and if you like what you know you will see, you will get some laughs and giggles.

The script does lay on the ‘Google is great’ makeup quite heavily, but it is a fluffy comedy, so most is forgiven.

The takeaway from a takeaway

In one of the last scenes, our heroes’ team is behind and has to complete a sales challenge to win full time jobs at the end of the internship; they have to get a business to sign up for Google advertising.

They target a local pizza bar.

The owner, Sal, is a most endearing character who typifies how many small business owners think about online marketing:

It is too big for me, it will alienate me from my local customers and suppliers

Sal says she goes to the local market every morning to buy the tomatoes and basil for her pizza sauce and that she doesn’t want to rock the boat.

This is one of the first hurdles people need to jump: By imagining online marketing will flood your business beyond capacity, is to let your fear of trying something new and failing at it talk you out of a venture that could in fact solidify your foundation in the community.

The second argument is that Sal’s nephew or son wants to open up a few more pizza bars and enter the world of franchising.

As the team is quick to point out, they use Google Maps to locate ideal locations for some pizza bars and cross reference them with local growers’ markets.

Sal signs up.

What would Oscar Wilde do?

In this digital age where our lives are getting increasingly cramped and pressured, I consider it a crime to let your fear of getting attention through digital means keep you out of the ‘game’.

To do so would be to realise the consequences of Oscar Wilde’s famous and everso accurate witticism:

There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about

The movie also reminds us that people are at the core of things.

From making the sale to having the team function well enough explain the benefits and provide the service, it is people being interacted with, and digital tools just acting as the that – tools.

You might want to pass this on to a friend who is sitting on the digital fence.

And if you are already embracing digital marketing, perhaps use this movie as an excuse to take a look at your website, blog posts, Google Maps listings, etc, and check whether you are talking to humans or just spouting advertising cliches.

I know which approach stands more chance of winning my attention, interest and trust.