Client Side vs Agency Side
We look at the differences between working Client Side and Agency Side
Whether you're looking for design, sales, or marketing jobs, there will always be differences between a career on the client side (in-house) and a career in a marketing agency. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and you may find that your personality and skill set fits one culture more than the other.
Agencies are notorious for having fast paced environments with ever changing workloads. No two days are ever the same, and you may be working on many different brands simultaneously, requiring strong multitasking and time management ability to ensure that all of your clients' work is completed on time and within budget.
If you enjoy the challenge of developing and pitching ideas, and wining and dining clients, then an agency side career might be for you. But it's not all glamour. Entertaining clients and pitching the next big advert is only a small part of the job; there is a lot of skill and patience involved in managing projects and people, and resolving issues quickly and efficiently when they crop up. Good negotiation is vital when agreeing costs and schedules with clients and suppliers, and, while this is a skill that can be taught, it predominantly comes over time from really getting to know your clients and developing an understanding of the way they like to work.
One of the characteristics agency marketers appreciate is the close working relationship they build with their clients, as many clients see marketers and account managers as an extension of their team. It's always fun going to a client's office to touch base with the team. Nevertheless, agency work is hard, and can be stressful too: the days can be long and, dependent on the service offering, the work can be very diverse, which means you need to be up to date with and knowledgeable about all the latest media, technology, and marketing trends in order to advise clients. After all, they see you as the expert, and that's what you need to be.
With long hours and challenging workloads, many agencies keep staff motivated and inspired by providing entertainment and relaxation rooms, from napping areas to games rooms and, in one case, even a ball-pit! Agency culture provides a lively environment in which to work, as well as the opportunity to meet similar-minded creative people. Working for multiple brands means you may be working on some truly inspirational brands, and the best reward is presenting a client with a campaign that you both love, knowing all your hard work has paid off.
If you would prefer to concentrate all your energy on just one brand then working client side might be for you.
A marketing career in house can be just as demanding as work in an agency, especially if your industry is as fast paced as FMCG or retail. But one of the real luxuries of working client side is the familiarity you develop with the brand, including its products, customers, vision, message, and long term business goals. You live and breathe the brand, planning and implementing annual strategies to support overall business objectives, so it is essential that you have the motivation to continually develop the brand, and keep it looking fresh.
This is not always easy, as in most companies you have to convince people at many different levels that your strategy or campaign will support (not threaten) business performance in the long-term. These internal politics often slow down the process of delivery and can be frustrating. Working client-side requires patience and the ability to influence colleagues over a period of time until they are comfortable with an idea.
Unlike agency work, projects are often undertaken annually, allowing you to really improve on performance year after year, while developing highly specialised knowledge in that field. Projects are often collaborative, involving other departments within the business, and this gives you the opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues across the business for a more comprehensive and well-rounded perspective on the brand.
Many larger companies have in-house design/web development departments that can fulfil most marketing needs, but companies can often use multiple external agencies to fill creative gaps, or handle larger projects that are beyond the capacity of the internal team. In either case, you could be managing multiple external agents to bring a wide-reaching campaign to fruition.
One of the biggest challenges for in-house marketers right now is the squeeze on budgets. Those in client side marketing and creative positions are being asked to do more with tighter budgets, and juggle the workload for multiple brand channels while providing and proving a strong return on investment.
The Insight from Reed:
Rupinder Soul, from Reed Marketing & Creative, Birmingham, highlights some of the characteristics that REED consultants use to distinguish between suitable candidates for client and agency side jobs:
'On the client side, we are often looking for sector specific experience, as well as experience of working on marketing campaigns within a budget. Commercial-mindedness is key, as is staying up to date with market trends. With online marketing becoming increasingly prevalent, a sound knowledge of digital marketing is highly advantageous.
'On the agency side, evidence of relationship management ability is very important. As well as this, the candidate should be a real multitasker, able to manage a variety of campaigns at any given time whilst sticking to tight deadlines. A creative person with the ability to turn a client's vision into an effective piece of brand communication would make an excellent agency side marketer.'
Whether you opt for a career in agency side or in-house marketing, there are always going to be challenges. Each represent a different set of challenges within a different work culture, and it is well worth deciding if your personality and career ambitions fit better with one side than the other.
Of course, for some money might be the deciding factor. On average, Marketing Managers' salaries are generally higher than those for Account Managers in the UK (REED Average Salary 2013). However, working for both sides can enhance your career, making you a more rounded marketer, adept at planning and implementing brand strategies, both in the long term in client side marketing and in the short term as an agency marketer.
Explore our other marketing advice articles:
- How to become a marketing director
- Using big data for marketing
- Marketing job roles and responsibilities
Or head back to our marketing careers advice section.