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Moving from client-side to agency-land

4 December 2019 Article by Amelia Petrovich


What’s better: client-side or agency life? For Chemistry Senior Account Manager Lauren Chalmers, previously at Loyalty New Zealand in Wellington, the switch from one to the other went far smoother than she thought. We chatted with Lauren to find out what brought her to Chemistry and what she’s learned about the industry along the way.

Familiarity breeds curiosity

“There’s a stereotype about the way agencies treat their staff and the amount of work, but that can be a misconception,” says Lauren. “Really, all you have to do is look at things like company values and structure as you would any other job.”

“At Loyalty New Zealand I had the best of both worlds doing two of my favourite things – social and direct marketing. A normal day for me would include any mixture of both,” she explains.

“However I also worked with agencies and always admired the work they did, not to mention how close they were to it – I wanted to be closer to the creative and production side of things and get more experience and exposure to areas of marketing I wasn’t involved in.”

It’s all same-same, but different

For Lauren, switching sides has involved both learning new processes and replicating her client-side skills – a balance that, to her, feels like the perfect mix.

“I’m very used to the back and forth with clients, proofing work, working with creatives and studio to get things through, things like that. It was a nice feeling knowing that was something I could already do,” says Lauren.

However any new role comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities, and moving from working on one brand to working for an agency makes some differences more apparent.

“You might have an idea or some strategic thinking that you want to share, but unless the client has time in their diary or it’s already on their priority list you sometimes can’t affect things the same way,” she says.

“When I worked client-side I had more situations where I could go ‘I want this for our content strategy’, whereas now it’s more ‘I think you should try doing this’ and wait to see what the client says. That mindset’s quite different so that’s something I’m learning.”

Lauren’s learning that strengthening your agency’s influence relies on strong relationships.

“Back when I worked closely with Loyalty New Zealand’s media agency, I always appreciated them challenging me and giving recommendations when I just didn’t know,” she says. “In time, I hope I can be that to my clients here too – people appreciate it when you challenge respectfully I think.”

Any side can be a good side

Lauren maintains that both roles feel fulfilling in different ways. “I feel like you can deep dive on detail when you’re client-side,” she explains.

“If you’re into a particular style of marketing like social for example, you could totally go all-in on that and become a subject matter expert which is quite cool. Working on one brand all the time means you can be really focussed.”

Whereas with agency work, there is more freedom and constant collaboration.

“There’s always going to be one person leading the charge but there’s also going to be lots of other minds in the room helping it come together. I always find that’s what yields the best work and job satisfaction,” she says.

“I’ve also noticed people putting their hand up for stuff – every business says that’s a thing you’re free to do but it’s actually true here. If I feel like I want to work on something even if it’s not client-related I can, and that’s really cool.”

Know yourself, then power forward

Like any new adventure, often the hardest part of switching from one side of the fence to the other is simply knowing where to start. For young would-be agency Account Managers, Lauren has a few key pointers.

“It’s so important to think about what you’re really looking for” she says.

“I know what kind of management style works best for me and what kind of things I love doing, so ask yourself if an agency fits your own values first. Remember you’re interviewing an agency as much as they’re interviewing you. Ask them questions and see how it feels in your gut,” says Lauren.“Don’t let anything stand in the way of giving it a go.”

Here’s to that, Lauren! And here’s to you.