Moving from Agency to Client Side

Unfortunately, we’re hearing more and more that the heydays of agency life are over. Client spend and budgets are getting less and the reason is often because they’re bringing the work in-house; if you’ve thought about moving with it, then hopefully I can help.

I recently joined The Change Partners after a long career working within agencies. I’ve learnt a lot in the transition in regards to moving from an agency position to internally within a brand’s marketing/digital team. Below, I’ve listed the key differences between the two, so you can make the move with ease.

How does hiring differ between agency and in-house?

I’ve recruited within the agency space for the past 2.5 years. It’s an industry where CVs don’t matter, roles could be created and the work your agency produced spoke for your own experience and ability. What I mean by that is, as a recruiter, if you came to me as an Account Director who’s worked on EE at Poke (Publicis) for the past couple of years, then I’d have got you an interview with any of Poke’s competitors – without even a glance at your CV. The EE work you’ve delivered and Poke’s reputation speak for itself.

I’d get you in even if the agency didn’t have a live role. Good people are hard to come by, so often for someone great – a role could be created! Whereas brand-side, this isn’t the case, unfortunately.

Your CV is your shop window

To go in-house, your CV is your shop window. If you don’t have anything good in there – no one will bother exploring it.

What’s key from this is that an agency CV and a client-side CV are very different. Clients aren’t impressed by the fact that you’ve pitched and won new business for your agency. That you’ve managed a team of account managers. Or that you grew the account from £500k- £1m in the past six months. They want to know about what you’ve delivered and the results you’ve achieved for the brands you’ve worked on – a much more customer-centric approach.

How has your work increased the amount of “Giant Chocolate Buttons” Cadbury sold last year? Focus on the specific deliverables and brand approach as this is what you would be doing if you worked directly for them.

My Director, Alastair, has written an article on creating a good CV. Check it out, here.

Remuneration is important

We all go to work for the same reason, and changing from agency to client-side can be tough if you don’t know where to position yourself, or what salary you should be going for. You can’t expect your agency salary to translate into the client-side world – it’s a completely different kettle of fish.

Typically, agencies pay very well at the start of your career, in client services for example, you will start as an Account Executive and grow to Account Director within five/six years; starting around the lower end of £20k and hitting £50k at Account Director level. As you continue to grow, the level that your pay increases will become slightly less and will tend to cap out quite quickly.

Client-side, your progression will happen at a steadier pace and when making the transition it’s important to be realistic and think of your long-term goal. Yes, your skills are transferable, but don’t forget you’re up against people who have been client-side for their whole career doing this role, or a very similar role with another brand/organisation.

With client-side roles, it is much more about the overall package. This is basic salary + bonus + car allowance + benefits. Whilst cultural benefits at an agency are good, they typically never pay a bonus, whereas client-side, the package makes up a good proportion of your “annual take home”.

Elements like a car allowance are important as they provide an additional benefit – such as a car or a cash injection on top of your salary. Additionally, how much stronger is the maternity package, pension cover, or any additional benefits, such as shares that you didn’t get before?

There is much more to a client-side ‘package’ than an agency’s. My advice is, don’t rule something out purely because the base is slightly below what you’re looking for – think about the bigger picture and the annual cash take-home.

Fluidity is key

 The ability to navigate large political organisations and having a strong sphere of influence is key to success within a brand and client-side role. If you have the gravitas and the experience to take people on your journey, then you’ll succeed.

When you work in an agency, you do a little “sliver” within the marketing process of a brand, whereas client-side roles are much more varied and affect an overall business and brand – you have to be prepared to work on more diverse projects.

What do our clients want?

That’s the million-dollar question – there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the creative industries. However, in most instances, clients prefer someone with a mix of agency and client-side experience. Your agency time means you understand the importance of good creative and know how to deliver in a fast-paced organisation. Whereas coming from an in-house marketing team means your experience will be more varied and commercial, and you will know how to deliver & influence in a matrix or layered organisation. Combine the two… you’re the ideal candidate!

If you’re thinking of making the move, please get in touch with me and hopefully I will be able to help you – anne@thechangepartners.com