“We don’t ever click through ads.”
The conversation ground to a halt in the conference room, the presenters’ eyebrows lifting in surprise. As marketing technology consultants, digital ads remain a keystone element of the marketing strategies we develop with our clients. To be presenting in a room where this basic tool of the marketer has no respect from the audience is rare.
Then again, this is not a typical discovery session, nor are the attendees the usual C-suite or executive-adjacent types. Instead, the board room on the 19th floor at the dentsu Chicago office is full of nearly 100 freshmen from Cristo Rey High School.
Sharing real-world knowledge
In early May, Merkle’s Technology Strategy team presented to these students on consulting and marketing, and in return learned some valuable lessons.
The relationship came about as a new element of an existing partnership between Merkle and Cristo Rey, the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). Along with many other Chicago businesses, Merkle hires Cristo Rey high school students as interns throughout their school year, subsidizing their tuition to Cristo Rey and providing experience, networking, and professional development through their office placements. With 96% of Cristo Rey alumni being the first in their family to get a college degree, it’s vital that they get exposed to potential careers and industries to guide their college major decisions. COVID-19 brought challenges to the CWSP, including a reduced capacity for student internships resulting from the increase in remote working. Seeing this gap, the Technology Strategy team applied for and won a Merkle Dream Grant to support a day of onsite training and mentorship for the Cristo Rey class of 2026.
The full-day program began with an overview of Merkle as a company, including its mission, values, and culture. Next, the Tech Strategy team presented "Consulting 101," covering the types of consulting, the consulting process, and the skills required to be successful in the field. The students asked insightful questions and showed a keen interest in the subject matter.