How many times have you arrived back in your office after a meeting
with one of your agencies, thinking ’I could do that job’?
For most, this idle thought is pushed to the back of the mind behind the
next set of brand plans. But for some, including the soon-to-be-former
marketing director of Rover Group John Lowndes and former Guinness
marketing controller Jason Nicholas, thoughts turn into action.
Lowndes and Nicholas, who have, respectively, become a management
consultant and a below-the-line agency planning director, have joined a
small but growing band of people who jump the fence into the agency
Many are attracted by the thought of escaping the politics of a
multinational for the more entrepreneurial spirit of an agency.
Nicholas says he thinks his new job at Billington Cartmell offers him
’the best bits of a brand manager’s job, the idea generation, but in a
far less structured environment’. However, he concedes that this may not
Mark Hartstone joined ad agency FCB three years ago after a traditional
marketing career that took in Britvic, Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo)
and the top consumer marketing post at Energis.
He says that the change in culture when he switched to the agency world
was the biggest difference. ’I was lucky because we worked in a very
project-based way at Energis. If I’d come straight from Britvic it would
have been a big culture shock,’ he says.
The obvious but underestimated fact that you have no physical product to
sell can also take some getting used to, says Hartstone.
’As a client, people in a company come and go, but the brand is king. In
an agency, the people are the brand. There is no mechanism to deliver
except the individual skills of yourself and your colleagues. I think a
lot of clients don’t realise quite how labour intensive this business
is,’ he says.
Once you’ve got over the lack of structures and your sudden need for
self-reliance, there’s the pace of things to deal with.
’At Britvic I remember working on brand plans that would be implemented
in 18 months’ time. We would draft, refine and then present. But at FCB
I suddenly found myself making calls about things that would be put in
place within days,’ says Hartstone.
And then there is the subtle but fundamental change in your
’When you’re a client people are paid to listen to you, but as an agency
person, you are paid to listen to them,’ says Adam Crozier, joint
managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi and a former marketer for
But despite all the difficulties, Marketing’s straw poll of
client-turned-agency types revealed a marked lack of regret about their
’Maybe it’s the Catholic upbringing but I relish the less safe
environment of an agency,’ says Robert Bean, former head of advertising
for BT and now head of ad agency Bean Andrews Norways Cramphorn.
’As a client you’re stuck on a one-trick pony, but in advertising, the
job is always varied.’
COULD I DO IT?
Consider turning to the agency world if:
- You can tackle a variety of different jobs at once.
- You thrive under pressure.
- You can handle putting your all into a brand only to surrender it when
the account is reviewed or the project finishes.
- You’ve always wondered what the inside of The Ivy looks like.