“So, tell me about the agencies you have worked for before…” an advertising agency’s Account Director asked me during an informal interview. “None” is the only answer I could come up with, followed by the dreadful truth: “I come from the client’s side”. Very dramatic. Would we have been in the middle of a thunderstorm, lightning and blinking light bulbs would have perfectly complemented the scene.
Even a fast-learner would inevitably get lost the first couple of days or weeks.
In the marketing world, switching from working at an advertiser who hires advertising agencies, to working for the accounts department of an actual agency is quite a process. What makes it so challenging?
The Fifth P
Marketing executives commonly deal with the 4Ps (Product, Place, Price, Promotion), but they are not really aware of the fifth P – the agency’s P – namely: the Process. Who does what? When? With whom? Where is the brief template? And the contract template? Is there even a contract signed for each project? Seen from this angle, it would indeed require a lot of patience for an Account Director to hire a new Account Manager who comes from the client’s side. Even a fast-learner would inevitably get lost the first couple of days or weeks. Unless the agency provides the new employees with a comprehensive training program that will enable them to quickly understand how and where to find the useful tools and resources.
Why would marketing specialists ever want to move to the agency world in the first place?
As far as the marketing specialists who are passionate about communication and advertising, it has a lot to do with their frustration of not being able to focus more on these specific areas. Where they come from, it’s all about R & D, consumer research, trends, range structure, budget forecast, and market shares, whilst promotion is often the last issue that is being brought up at the time of a product launch. The communication campaign is then left in the hands of the agency. Later in the product launch process and once the campaign is approved, the marketing team’s main responsibility is only to interface with the project manager at the agency in order to deal with day-to-day issues.
What does an agency gain by hiring marketing executives?
Professionals who enjoyed working with agencies and who are so passionate about the industry, sharing with creative and ready to build long-term relationships with clients that they decided to make this their full-time job. Not to forget that because they themselves were once the client, they know what a product launch is about and can therefore be proactive on issues that will bring added value to the service they provide.
Which side should a freshly graduated marketing executive choose? The agency or the client?
Whatever side students choose, they should keep in mind that they will still be able to work on the other side at some point in their career. Both the advertisers and the agencies have lot to offer, for new executives to learn and benefit from. But only once they have experienced the real deal can they really be sure of what they are good at and interested in. We often see people change sides in many other business fields: the lawyer in a law firm who ends up getting hired as a jurist by his client, or a science teacher who becomes a computer engineer. They certainly would have great stories to tell. One thing they would certainly tell us is that it was indeed a lot of work to make this career change. And also that they very much resorted to the 6th P, the one that is not mentioned in marketing books. Persistence, that is.
Guest post by Isabelle Loiseau, a marketing & communications specialist. She has been working in Paris on BtoB and BtoC top of range brands, mainly at advertisers in the paper industry, and worked on awards-winning campaigns. She also writes. Her first short-stories compilation has just been published. She is now living in Vancouver.