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Agency vs Client Side

OK so it’s only been 6 weeks since I left agency land for my new life client-side, but it hasn’t taken long for me to look at the differences and comment on what everyone who works in an agency thinks of people who work client side.

For a start it’s bloody hard work! OK the hours aren’t as long and since I started I’ve managed to be home most nights before I would have even thought of leaving the office when I worked agency, and my new office is further away. Some of this will be to do with working in manufacturing where the factory stops at 4.30 and most people have left the building by 5.00.

So let’s wind it back a bit, until the middle of September 2016 I worked at an advertising agency called Uber in Sheffield, nothing to do with the taxis, as the Head of Digital. I was responsible for running all digital projects within the agency including design and build, social media, ecommerce, email marketing and online marketing, together with managing the team. Prior to that I worked as a Project Director at McCann Manchester and also used to run my own digital marketing agency. All in I have spent the last 17 years in digital roles in agencies across the North of England.

Client side I am now the Head of Digital Marketing for a company who sell household goods, best known for ironing boards and covers. Within the organisation we have another brand that sell garden furniture and barbecues. I manage all websites, staff including customer services, all online marketing and for good measure am helping to push the brand and offering into mainland Europe, before we leave the EU.

Anyone who has worked in an agency with digital people / ecommerce managers within a client-side business and wondered what they do all day, because let’s face it we all (when I was agency) think client-side is an easy ride! Well it isn’t.

I haven’t worked this hard in a very, very long time.

Working in agency for so long has meant everything is basically second nature, yes things have moved on a hell of a lot since I started my digital career building Virgin Holidays websites using frames and tables back in the late 1990’s but the fundamentals of project management and working within a digital / advertising agency environment haven’t. It was easy and looking back now I think I was just a little bit bored.

Moving into client side digital marketing isn’t just about having to learn the business, the products, pricing strategies, online marketing and promotional strategies, new people, new ways of working, using a PC again or how to fill in your expenses using a different form. I am now a retailer, I run an online shop that turns over multiple millions of pounds across several platforms including Amazon and eBay, using technology that I no longer have my own internal development team to support. I am in the hands of the agency. The agency that don’t work in the same way that I have worked for the past 17 years.

We always used to say it’s a different pace in agency than in client side, agency is a million miles an hour, always chasing around getting things done for a client deadline that they made up to make you work faster. It’s true, things don’t get done at the same pace, because there truly is so much to do, so much to consider, more people to consider, more people to consult, it’s not just about the bit of work that we give to an agency to complete, even as an online business the website is only a small part of what I do because I now have to create the content brief, not just the content, I have to prioritise the photo shoots to the products that sell over those that maybe don’t. New products are arriving all the time, what do we do with those, how much will they sell for, do we put them in a promotion, the list goes on and on and on… Then there’s the new website.

OK so it might just be the company I have joined, the way I have decided to do things and some legacy things that just need sorting out, but next time you think client-side is the poor relation to agency remember that you only see a very, very small part of what goes on behind the scenes, there is so much more to this than you think!

I don’t think I would ever go back to agency, never say never and all that but I found myself in a quiet moment the other day asking myself why I didn’t do this earlier.

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