Aug 24, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

A select group of interns, dubbed with unfortunate corniness FUNterns, are putting in 15 hours a week with Nestle as ambassadors for the Butterfinger brand while working full-time jobs or keeping busy elsewhere.

It’s an innovative program which kills two Nestle birds with one stone: using social media (online user-generated videos) to market candy, and providing job experience that potential employees may not get elsewhere.

Nestle’s Daniel Jhung, who manages the Butterfinger brand, launched the program in June after he had been hearing and reading about how cynical young people were about jobs and employment — Gen Y’s feeling that the job market was rotten, and that many big-corporation jobs were pretty dreary anyhow. Plus, Jhung figured Nestle could stand to learn a thing or two about social media from the Gen Y-ers.

He did a pretty wide sweep for candidates. It included the HotJobs job board (Nestle and Yahoo are tight); colleges; casting-call agencies in New York and LA; film schools; the Improv chain of comedy clubs, and more. After getting about 450 applicants in three or four days, that was enough to shut down the search.

Nestle narrowed down the field to a top-10 list in each city, and had each produce a video. From there, it interviewed two per city, and made its final selection.

A.J. Mayers is a FUNtern in Los Angeles. He heard on the radio that Nestle was having an in-person event to talk about the opportunity. He couldn’t make that, but did follow-up when he saw a posting for the internship on Craigslist, which pointed to HotJobs.

The University of Texas-Austin grad got the internship right before he got brought on at MTV. Because the Butterfinger gig is flexible, and can be done during off hours, from home, or at the beach (where he has passed out candy bars), he opted to take both the internship and the MTV job. There’d be no need to commute from his West Hollywood home to Santa Monica for MTV and then back to Nestle’s building, which could’ve been hellacious. Plus, Mayers was looking for experience in the entertainment industry and wants to be a TV producer, and for Nestle, he gets to make videos as part of an online user-generated video contest. The contest is part of Nestle’s re-introduction of its “Nobody’s gonna lay a finger on my Butterfinger” tagline.

Mayers, whose Butterfinger stint ends at the end of August, is making a last video that will be a “very fun, dancing, High School Musical-esque production,” he says, “with the Butterfinger man dancing around. It’s funny, silly. It’s my way to go out with a bang.”

Other FUNterns are in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. They’re doing different kinds of work revolving around promoting the candy bar and the video contest. The Chicago FUNtern is headed to BYU when the internship is over; the New York intern, who is also working for a wireless company, is also headed back to school. The Atlanta intern is doing the internship as part of some time off she’s taking to explore freelance projects.

Jhung didn’t say who might at some point be offered jobs from the group, but did mention that Nestle is considering one or two of them, pending among other things, the remaining videos they make. My guess is that AJ is one of them (if so, it’ll be interesting to see whether he picks MTV or Nestle; he mentioned to me that MTV is part of his TV-industry career path, and doesn’t sound eager to leave). Anyhow, below is one of his videos. Perhaps I should warn you that I’d give it a PG-13 rating.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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