Looking to go in-house? Here's what to expect
It’s 4pm on a Friday and your client just rings you about a heap of last-minute work that needs doing before the weekend. You think – wow – life on the other side seems like a piece of cake! I just call up my agency and they do all my work for me.
We’re about to pop that bubble because things are not as they appear. Take it from someone who pinballed between agency and brand-side roles, no matter which side you’re on, you’ll be working hard.
Most of your day is spent producing - whether its ideas, strategies, campaigns or documents - you're producing tangible work products that you submit to your client(s).
Your boss and client praise you for getting results - whether it's beautiful campaign materials, pulling off an event on a tight timeline or getting quality media coverage - it's all about what you've done.
Direction is provided
Of course the expectation is that you will think strategically, tactically and creatively, but your client is going to provide parameters to help guide the ever-changing priorities, give your the inside track on what's expected and will often advise on the direction of the work in terms of content and format.
We've all had difficult clients and bosses, but most of the time your insight and opinions are not only welcome, but expected. Praise and recognition are doled out like candy (and there's generally plenty of that too!).
Sure, you work long hours without a break and check work email on your phone, but unless something extraordinary or horrible happens, you probably won't be hearing from your boss, team, or clients in the evenings or on the weekends.
Living in the city
Both large and boutique agencies tend to have offices in major cities such as: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Shanghai, New York, San Francisco, etc.
It may feel like you're a road warrior between attending client meetings, industry events, and new business pitches; however, you generally get time in the office in-between. Large teams share the responsibility of attending client engagements in-person, making it almost a treat. Unless you're an executive, most of your time is spent in the office.
Most agencies charge clients based on actual hours worked so the likelihood that you will spend a ridiculous amount of time chronicling your working life in 15-minute increments is high.
Easier in and up
There's significantly more agency roles available than those inside brands so its easier to land a gig at an agency. Agencies also provide clear career progression and opportunities to learn, grow, and network are practically limitless.
There's little time to create because most of your day is spent in meetings or on conference calls gaining consensus within the organisation (generally on the ideas your agency produced).
Results are expected but undercut if consensus wasn't gained first. From start-ups to larger organisations, getting stakeholders onboard, securing funding and managing expectations is what consumes your day, every day. This is a great opportunity to hone your presentation and persuasion skills.
Self-start within a remit
You were hired and that's pretty much your remit to dig into the organisation and figure out what needs to be done to support the executives' priorities. If you're naturally proactive, you'll thrive, otherwise you may feel like you were dumped into the deep end without much guidance.
Eclipsed by marketing
Unless an organisation truly understands the power of communications, a lot of education is needed. Executives may favour marketing because it produces specific conversion metrics to assess return on investment (ROI). Since communications impact multiple aspects of a business, performance indicators often feel less concrete to executives.
It's more likely that you'll be able to catch a morning yoga class or pick up the kids from school; however, colleagues in other time zones will ask for calls after hours, urgent items can arise without time to brief your agency, media requests come in with tight editorial deadlines, investors call and the list goes on...
Generally, you're based in company headquarters which can often be outside cities where real estate is less expensive. However, the remote working movement is making flexible arrangements more common.
You really travel
If your role is global and the organisation has an international team, you're in for some serious travel. Not only do you attend everything your agencies do, but there's numerous other meetings related to the many facets of your role in addition to internal meetings. You'll often find yourself on long-haul flights and expected to perform in back-to-back meetings. Hope you like coffee because you're going to need it!
Hallelujah! Now you can focus on other operational tasks that waste just as much of your time like making your own travel arrangements and submitting piles of expense receipts (unless you're lucky enough to have an assistant).
Coveted, but limited
Since there are fewer in-house positions, they are coveted and you'll see few professionals return to agency life once they've gone to the other side. With that said, there's limited career trajectory unless the organisation has a very large communications department.