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The Great Agency vs Client Debate

By on 04.01.13 in Your Career

I was interested to read the article in Marketing magazine some time ago highlighting the benefits to a marketer's career of working both agency and client side. I was even more interested to read a couple of weeks ago that one of the marketing professionals mentioned had already left her job.

We're frequently approached by account handlers saying they want to move client side and vice versa. There are unquestionable benefits from being able to see things from both marketer and agency perspectives, not least of which is being able to foster stronger relationships and ideally more effective marketing.

But I don't think it's always really well thought through. If you want to convince an interviewer that you really want the job - and even more crucially persuade them to go outside their comfort zone and hire from "the other side" - you are going to need to come up with some valid reasons.

If you are an account handler, I think there is a perception that you'll be closer to strategy but at the more junior levels, realistically, how strategic are you going to be? And it's all very well flinging words like "strategy" around, but if you can't back them up with any evidence, I'd be sorely tempted to avoid going there. Yes, you should certainly get more exposure to data and results, but frequently you'll be further away from the creative product - and that is often the very reason marketers choose to work in an agency.

Client side marketers think it's all a great bundle of laughs on the agency side, all lovely creative and stacks of young people having fun. For sure, agencies are vibrant and dynamic places to work, but you'll certainly find they want your pound of flesh. You'll get exposure to a range of clients, but this can be a massive challenge if you are used to focusing on your own brand. And last but by no means least, there is the loss of control. It's no longer your decision, it's your clients'!

I'm not saying don't make the move, I do think it can be exceptionally valuable but just think it through. Talk to your counterparts about what their jobs involve on a day-to-day basis. Volunteer for a secondment when the opportunity arises. Read job descriptions online. But above all, make sure you have valid reasons for wanting to make the move that you can explain when your recruitment partner gets you an interview on the other side of the fence.