Which career move it better?
July 16, 2007 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Career Filter: Should I move to a marketing agency or a large company with a strong internal marketing team?

It's time for a change.

For the past three years, I've worked as the Marketing Coordinator for a small consulting company in Phoenix. I like this company and have been successful at my job but have hit the ceiling because there is, and always will be, just one person in the marketing department.

I think it time for me to move on and it seems I have two options—move to a creative agency or an internal marketing department of a large company. The first sounds like a great way to improve my skills quickly and get my ass kicked by a bunch of marketing geniuses who are infinitively more talented than I am. The latter sounds like a better opportunity to gain management experience.

So to all you marketing/creative types, what do you think? What is it like working at an agency versus a large company? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each? Is one option more likely to lead to success than the other?

I'd like to move up. I'd like a challenge. I'd really like to know if I'm actually good at my job or if I just think I am because I am currently surrounded by very non-creative co-workers.

Thank you in advance. :-)
posted by chicken nuglet to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, as someone who has seen both sides, I think you have a pretty good grasp of what you're in for. (I should note that I'm a 'creative' not a marketer.) The answer comes down to how much you want to be involved in the actual creative side of the marketing process. Are you happiest formulating plans, forging partnerships and maintaining clients? Then you would probably want an agency. You'll be involved in edgier work but the creative staff mostly won't tolerate your intereference in their work. But you won't mind because you're happy to do what you do. On the other hand, if you do like to get your fingers in the creative work, taking an inhouse job might be the way to go. You have a little more leeway to not only conceive of the marketing plans, but to be in on the pictures and video and whatever as the plan is executed. Also, agency work tends to be a little less stable. Staff comes and goes and clients come and go. Personally, I work inhouse and find the flexibility and stability perfect for me. When I work with agencies, I'm amazed at how siloed many of them still are. Of course, all actual results vary by organization but this is how it seems to me. Good luck.
posted by lpsguy at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2007

Agency type here, albeint at a small one where the creative / planning distinctions are pretty much nonexistent.

Go for an agency if you want your challenges to be potentially more diverse and more frequent - a broad and demanding client base will stretch you in all sorts of directions, or even just a range of projects for the one client. You may also find the hours longer and the overall demands made of you somewhat greater. Remember that agency life is a sort of treadmill, even in the big ones - you're constantly having to evolve your ideas both for existing clients and for the constant pitches for new business (depending on the size of the agency you join, you may or may not get involved in these).

I love it. It's more of a hustle than inhouse marketing, and the personal side of it, especially in cultivating clients, is greater than you're likely to come across in-house. I don't mean any of that to have shady connotations. Most agencies I know work hard for their income. But lpsguy's comments on the instability are true - expect clients and staff to come in and out of your life as fast as the common cold.

So once you're decided on the in-house v agency question, you still need to think about what sort of each you want, which can boil down to the size of the agency / department and the personalities you'll work with.

Good luck either way, it's a great career despite what certain comedians (got quoted in the blue recently, can't find it) think of us.
posted by dowcrag at 9:21 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just left the advertising agency world, so my perspective is skewed towards agency life, but here are the pros and cons that I noticed in my experiences at ad agencies:

--Creative environment
--Diverse client roster = diverse projects and experiences

--Limited stake in clients' success or failure
--Instability of clients - they'll come and go on a whim and layoffs and hiring tend to follow ebb and flow of the client roster
--Responsibility silos - there are a lot of account managers who think they have what it takes to write the next great commercial, but unless your business card says copywriter or art director, don't expect to influence the creative output
--Agency management types tend to be poor personnel managers. They don't tend to do the training, development and reviews that large companies do. Often, the clients and their needs take precedent to the needs of employees.
--Creatives are often more concerned with building their portfolios than executing ads that adhere to a given strategy

If the choice were mine, I would go with the in-house position. You'll still have a role in the creative output, but you'll likely be working among more professional people who are dedicated to the growth of the company and the growth of fellow employees. The benefits are likely to be better in terms of 401(k), stock purchase plans, tuition reimbursement, etc at a large (non agency) company.

Also, if you ever decide to go work at an agency after the in-house position, you will be revered for having "worked on the client side."
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

it really comes down to deciding what you want to work on. in a marketing agency, you will see a variety of projects and clients and that can keep things fresh and interesting for you. working in an in-house marketing dept for a large company restricts your projects to just "one client" essentially, and oftentimes, the same sort of projects year in and year out. and after a certain period (could be months or years), you might find yourself wanting a greater variety or more challenge. OTH, this can provide you with a greater challenge in trying to keep things fresh.
posted by violetk at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2007

Okay, I marked all of these responses as "best answer" because they are all so great. Thanks a million.

Based on what you've all said so far, the agency sounds more appealing. I am wondering though, is the environment at an agency more competitive or collaborative? Do I need to be aggressive to succeed or will my ideas/work speak for itself?
posted by chicken nuglet at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2007

competitive vs collaborative

neither is inherent in the agency experience. that is entirely dependent on the culture of each individual agency.
posted by violetk at 2:23 PM on July 16, 2007

« Older Quality Independant Journalism   |   ONLY AVAILABLE IN MY DRIVEWAY Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.