The Big Decision: Marketing for the client or agency?

It’s no secret. In-house marketing is very different from an agency role. Here are some insights from those in the profession.

Organisational skills, creativity and great communication – these are must-haves for a marketing career.

For brands building an in-house marketing team, organisational skills are vital especially as you manage the image of a single business on a day-to-day level. To meet overall business objectives, employees work with long term goals in mind to manage and create campaigns that build one brand’s image. Meeting steady deadlines is part of the job so organisational are skills are essential for success1.

When recruiting, marketing agencies look for organisational skills too. Their employees have to ensure that work is completed on time, often while working on different and varied brands. Organisational skills are also needed for synergy, so team members can play to their creative strengths.

Simply put, all marketing teams look for candidates with similar qualities. But, employees have to meet different demands.

To find out which side – client or agency – suits you better, consider these points:

1) Is it more satisfying to focus on one brand, or many?

On the client side, you are likely to know a single brand really well. Experienced marketers may take pride in steering the brand ahead of competitors, and watching its growth over the years.

“My job is to guarantee a good image, relevance and identity for my brand,” says Ms Renata Assunção, Senior Global Brand Manager at Unilever. She markets for the brand closeup, a line of toothpastes.

“On top of being creative, I have to get my head around how to exploit all the available media and technologies to achieve my brand’s audience,” she adds.

The client side allows you to focus your creative energy on a single brand and the different ways it interacts with its customer base. In an agency, all these skills are put to work across multiple brands and products. It brings out different but also rewarding challenges for marketers.

2) Which appeals to you: Stability or dynamism?

In the field of marketing, agencies move faster than brand stalwarts. Agency side marketers have to deal with fast-paced work, longer hours and multiple deadlines2.

“Agencies have had to change with market and technology forces, forcing them to become more agile and consumer centric,” says Mr Andrew Trimboli, Director of Content and Social Strategy at SapientRazorfish.

“This makes agencies a much more enjoyable and dynamic place to work. You get exposure to myriad brands, clients and solutions that you wouldn’t get on the client side,” he adds.

3) How important is the creative process?

While being on the client side gives you a clearer view of the industry, most of the creative work is actually done at marketing agencies.

Ms Sarah Ann Musgrave, Head of Strategy & Insights at MEC Global Solutions Asia Pacific, found the latter more satisfying. “While I have been in agencies for 90% of my career, I did spend a couple of years client-side when I first moved to the UK,” she says.

“It provided me with an excellent macro view of the marketplace, the disciplines and exposure to the complexities that agencies often forget about. In the end, I returned to agencies to be closer to the work,” she adds.

4) Do you enjoy managing people or products?

At agencies, soft skills are required to maintain a healthy client-agency relationship. This could be as easy as a regular call to check in on a client, or the difficult task of delivering a complex project in a short delivery time.

On the client side, marketers have to be responsible for the output of external agencies.

Ms Marina Leptich, Global Brand Manager at Unilever: “As a client, I have two favourite moments with agencies: first is when we finally brief them after our internal strategic alignment, and second when they come back with their magic… it’s like receiving a box full of surprises, and I can’t wait for the agency to reveal them all!”

Graduates from Kaplan Higher Education Institute receive job offers from both ends of the field. The part-time marketing programme, which is offered in conjunction with University College Dublin, “trains our students in a wide range of contemporary marketing skills to effectively operate within the global business world,” says Dr Markus Vanharanta, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at University College Dublin.

“At the moment, social media is fundamentally changing the way companies and marketing agencies operate,” he adds. “In this new environment, I encourage my students to adopt an open-mind towards continuous learning and curiosity towards exciting career possibilities in the field of marketing.”

Be it working for the client or a marketing agency, adaptability goes a long way in starting a career. A degree from Kaplan may just put jobseekers ahead.

Be prepared for a future in marketing. Enrol in the University College Dublin’s (UCD) Bachelor of Business Studies (Honours) in Marketing (Full-time), Bachelor of Business Studies (Honours) in Marketing (Part-time) or Master of Science In Marketing (Part-time).