Certainly, the creative process is very different, and it is in this department that AHA can probably learn the most. However, in the client-relations department, I observed very early on that although BBH and AHA may have monumentally different clients in scope and size, the same frustrations could easily be shared.
During my first week at BBH I overheard a conversation between two account people who were discussing one of their recent frustrations with a client. Apparently, BBH was charged with creating and maintaining the design of a website. However, the clients had taken it upon themselves to create their own section of the site without BBH's input. The only problem was that it was no longer within the brand guidelines outlined by both client and agency. Obviously this was a bad thing, no matter what the size of the brand. But there were other projects ongoing, so despite the frustrations, and even though this was, indeed, an important project, the account people decided to put the issue on the backburner.
Here I was during my first week in the Big Apple and it was like being back in little ol' Eugene. Listening to the account folk discuss the difficulties in maintaining a consistent brand image reminded me of the same difficulties that we have at AHA. It has proven especially difficult with web content that requires the fastest turnaround and most client input.
This was the first, but certainly not the last, indication that our little student-run agency is very much a real agency after all. We have real clients, real budgets and billing, and real client-relations frustrations.
Turns out our student-run agency can be more "agency" than "student-run" after all. But it's the combination of the two that provides the opportunity for students like me to feel right at home in agencies both big and small.