I have recently stepped over to the ‘other side’ in my career, after five years in ad agencies, I dived head first into client-side! (Cue dramatic piano chords).
It was a strange feeling. Agencies are all I’ve known or wanted to know since graduating university in 2010, but five months ago, like some sort of adland Gollum, I heaved open the heavy agency front door and peered anxiously into the daylight.
My chief concern being whether or not the highly honed (Analytics) skills I had so proudly developed in the rooms of London agencies would prove only applicable-in agencies!
This fear is not unfounded; all of the elements which make agency life so unique and wonderfully challenging; the constant survival mode, the theatrical, provocative approach to everything, are the very same elements that can foster a sort of “adland” mind-set. A sort of advertising “Stockholm syndrome”, that this is the best way, the only way.
So with trepidation, in the August sunshine, having shed my blazer and Nikes, I heaved open the (equally heavy) door of my new offices, ironically nestled in London’s theatrical west-end, stepped inside and became… a client!
After four months I can safely say the two worlds are just as starkly different as the stereotypes suggest.
Putting aside the immediate contrast in that, as yet, I have not seen anyone with a handlebar moustache, sauntering around in a pair of flip-flops with a Sharpie pen barking eccentric tag lines. No, the primary change I have registered was in my field of data & analytics.
When it comes to agency analytics my experience has told me that it is no different to any other agency offering, it is deemed just as important as Account Management, Creative, or Development and so it is included on the client estimate, assigned a monetary value. And here is where the core difference exists; in agencies analytics is primarily business – it is another agency commodity. In client-side analytics there is not the same insistence to apply the £ to everything. I do not say this with praise or with criticism, but as an observation.
There is a break-neck urgency within agencies which is born from the need to generate money and continue to exist. In the same way that history tells us technology advances fastest during times of war due to the drive to adapt and survive, the same is true in agencies. The sheer necessity to survive means evolution is commonplace.
This leads to real strengths, especially in the field of analytics; I believe agencies are positioned closer to the ‘bleeding edge’ of data progress, that is to say the more ‘ballsy’, provocative approaches will more often be flighted in agencies.
In client side analytics, I have not found the same blinding urgency, the screaming rev counter is replaced with quiet composure, a composure born from the security of having enough money, enough resource and enough know-how to execute something properly. This composure fosters its own strengths, here I reference the depth and degree of detail at which client-side analysts can work. “Hypothesis”, “Continual” and “Tested” are words often deprioritised in agencies due to the lack of time or intense rigidity of agreed proposals, but they are crucial to robust analysis, something which I have only really appreciated since working client-side. There is a credence to the insight generated on this side of the fence which is iron-clad.
In taking the plunge into a client role and acknowledging the distinction(s), you will defuse the fear of the Other Side. The real challenge comes in morphing the two… In my opinion the world beating analyst is one who’s insight is forged with high-octane, revolutionary (agency) thinking, but executed and dissected with clinical (client-side) methodology.