Working in an agency vs. in-house

Posted by Paladin on April 02, 2020

One of the most exciting aspects of a job in marketing is the array of potential environments you’re able to work in. Creatives can choose between an agency role or working directly for a brand that manages advertising and marketing in-house — and they’ll find these offer a very different work experience.

If you’re on the fence about which path to select, take a look at these pros and cons to agency and in-house life.

Opportunities and Skills

More than anything else, it’s the nature of the work that differentiates an agency job from a position with a brand. With an agency, you’ll be working on behalf of multiple clients, while in-house you’ll likely focus on a single brand or line of related products.

One pro of choosing the agency path is that the work will expose you to a number of industries and projects. In a single month at an agency, you could find yourself working on a pitch for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand, a spring ad campaign for an apparel company, and an ongoing search engine marketing campaign for an automative manufacturer. The variety is appealing, but you’ll also be dealing with tight deadlines and juggling numerous projects at once, which can be a con for creatives who don’t excel at multitasking.

Another big pro of agencies is that because you’re collaborating with multiple other departments, you’ll find out exactly what goes into managing projects, and which aspects of the process are most appealing to you. You’ll contribute to multiple accounts — but you’ll also have to conduct a lot of research to understand each client’s market, which could be seen as a con. Still, you’ll learn skills like time management, organization, and delegation — another pro that can serve you well throughout your career.

How would your days look on the brand side? When you work in-house, you’re given the ability to specialize in a particular industry or product sector. Pro: This is a valuable opportunity to make a decision about your career path and become an expert in your field. Keep in mind that specialized marketing professionals are always in high demand, as they require less training up front.

There’s another major pro to working in-house: there are plenty of jobs to be had. According to data from Forrester Research, 64 percent of corporations now have in-house agencies, compared with 42 percent a decade ago. Other reports suggest that 34 percent of marketers will bring more of their adtech and programmatic media buying in-house in 2020.

Creativity and Freedom

One of the biggest cons to working at an agency is that you’ll have to defer to the client on final decisions related to creative content. While brand-side marketers do rely on agency experts to pilot their campaigns, agency creatives don’t have as much freedom to manage things since it’s ultimately the client who makes the call.

On the brand side, however, you’ll find you have more creative control over campaigns. That’s a pro, as you’ll have the final say on how brands are represented and conveyed to consumers. Because you’ll be spending more time with a limited number of brands, rather than leaving your mark on many, you can really sink your teeth into a project.

Creative control is a big issue for companies, 38 percent of which name it as the reason why they’re going in-house with their marketing. When you work for a brand, another pro is that you can be more hands-on with digital channels and content production, while making sure you’re following new privacy regulations.

Resources and Pay

As you make your choice, don’t forget to consider the resources you’ll have at your disposal. Let’s say you go the in-house route. Unless you’re with a major company, you may have fewer resources and a smaller budget to work with. Agencies, on the other hand, usually deal with bigger marketing budgets (if a brand didn’t have a fair amount of money, they couldn’t justify agency fees and would likely keep their marketing in-house). This is a pretty big pro if you’re eager to flex your creative muscle.

And then there’s the matter of pay. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “Agencies usually have lower starting salaries than brands. In agencies you often will have to earn your stripes and get quite a bit of agency and client management experience before you begin earning the big bucks.” While this may seem like a con, the site notes that some agencies have upped their starting salaries to compete with brands, which “usually pay significantly more.”

Before you make your career choice, it’s wise to get to know your options. Both agencies and brands have a lot to offer creative professionals, and you’re sure to find a position you love at one or the other.

Posted in: General, Job Seekers, Marketing

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