So, You Wanna Be in Marketing?

Are You Better Suited for Client Side or Agency Side?

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
It's not easy being the college class of 2009. Graduating into the worst economy in generations has left many 22-year-olds wondering how to land a job and start a career. I know, as I've spoken to many of them who want to enter our industry. One of the first things I ask new college graduates is which side of marketing they want to work in. Some look at me as though I've just asked an ridiculous question -- after all, marketing is marketing. Why should taking sides translate into different career experiences?

Those of you who've worked on both sides know what I'm talking about: There just is a difference. And neither side is better than the other. You just need to map your career goals and personality type to the right side, in order to increase your chances of happiness and success in your career. Once you choose a side, it's often difficult to jump to the other. I know, I've hired a handful of really smart people who came from the client side, and in every case, it simply didn't work out. The agency culture, for all its advantages and disadvantages, is tough to adjust to when you're accustomed to a corporate culture. But when I hire someone who comes from another agency, the odds of success for that individual are much greater.

Below, I've outlined what I believe are the characteristics of each professional environment. If you see yourself in one compared to the other, that's a cue that you should follow that marketing path:

Agency Side:

  • Multi-faceted clients and assignments -- work on many brands, with many personalities.
  • Structure, but not too much.
  • Where casual dress began.
  • Fast-pace. Deadline-driven.
  • It's all about the people.
  • Often more unique décor.
  • Service culture -- it's all about the clients.
  • Right Lobe -- rush of excitement from big ideas energize the hallways.
Client Side:
  • Work on one brand.
  • More disciplined corporate environment.
  • Pace is slow compared to most agencies.
  • Power -- as the client, you call the shots,
  • Often a more formal dress code.
  • Left Lobe -- working among peers who are as good with math as they are with ideas.
  • Compensation -- it's usually better on this side.

Well, do you see yourself in one of these? Hopefully, this will help you make a smarter choice for your career. There is not one right -- or better -- choice (many days I've longed to be the client!), but you just have to select what fits you best. And, seriously, good luck to all of the many talented people out there, looking to break into our industry.