I’m often asked, “Why did you move from being the client to joining Stone Ward?” Most people think the logical career path is going from agency to client. I guess they think this because most think the client side is easier. Meaning shorter hours, less pressure, focused versus “jack of all trades,” etc. For the record, that’s a myth.
For background, I worked in the wireless business for 15 years prior to joining Stone Ward. The majority of those years, I worked for what I’d call an emerging brand until we were bought by the industry leader (in my opinion). The years I spent with the emerging brand remind me of my life now at the agency. We referred to ourselves as the “David” versus larger “Goliaths.” We worked every day to be the best and produce a quality product. While it was very much a corporation, we had the mindset of a small business. My time working for the leader, introduced me to a corporate environment I had never experienced before and a constant pressure to stay on top, which in some cases can sway your decisions.
So what have I learned? Well many things, but I’ll only touch on a few. The great thing about agency life is the learning. An agency’s client list is typically a mix of businesses which provides you the opportunity to learn about all types of categories and their competitive landscapes. While it’s great to have a focus on one industry, to me, it’s much more fun and challenging to spend two hours talking about fast food, then an hour on healthcare then another hour on hair care and so on.
Levels –the awesomeness (yes I said awesomeness) of not having them. I’ve learned that while marketing departments in a corporation are structured much like a mini-agency, the atmosphere is very different. Deadlines within a corporation’s marketing group are typically longer due to legal and the multiple levels of approvals (on EVERYTHING). At most agencies there are few levels, making it much easier to get things done. You don’t have to fill out paperwork to purchase a stapler, you simply go to Office Depot, Wal-Mart or Staples and buy one.
Pressure. Clients have pressure due to internal politics to deliver ROI on every initiative. They are responsible for reporting to shareholders and delivering good results to Wall Street. The pressure at an agency is a bit different. Yes, agencies still have to report ROI to their clients, but the pressure comes in when a client hasn’t taken your recommendation and you still have the pressure of delivering the results you know may not happen due to the client’s decision. Then there is the pressure of keeping clients happy. As the client, you don’t feel the anxiety of having to deliver bad news and how that could affect your business.
I thought I had an idea of what it would be like at an agency as I had managed a few during my time as the client, but I never really thought about the differences when I made my choice to “switch sides.”