Agency /Independent agencies or multinational network agencies – where should I start my career?

Independent agencies or multinational network agencies – where should I start my career?

Most of the talent that I meet have studied specifically to get into the advertising industry. While they’re studying and focused on getting into the industry and getting a job, I wonder just how many have considered the type of agency they would like to work in and whether an independent or a multinational agency would suit them best.

I recruit for both small independent agencies and multinational network agencies and I get asked a lot which is better. It’s like asking which is a better city to live in – Manchester Vs London or Sydney Vs Melbourne.

This article is for anyone just starting out or for those who are currently in the trenches of their current agency and wanting to know if the grass is greener in a different environment. I should note that this is a rough guide and each agency has its own idiosyncrasies, so always do your research or work with a decent recruiter who knows this space 🙂

Both have their perks and both produce amazing creative work, but here are some things to consider when choosing your first agency. If the following strikes a chord with you then maybe a larger network agency is better suited to you:

  • Do you want your friends and family to instantly know where you work and see the work on the ad breaks between The Block? Its only natural that you want to show off the fruits of your labour, the bigger agencies are often responsible for the big above the line campaigns.
  • Do you want to work somewhere where a big focus is winning awards and firmly positioning Australia on the world map for creative work? It’s not to say that the smaller agencies don’t win awards but due to resources it’s often the bigger agencies that can allocate resources for award based projects.
  • Do you have plans to work overseas and would like the possibility of getting a transfer? With the growth of global recruitment teams with the aim of retaining talent, wanting to live in London for 2 years doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the relationship

Network agencies are great places to learn the art of advertising and understand how a creative agency works. You’ll be surrounded by resources and have the financial backing of a big company. Be aware that you are often expected to work long hours, the scope of your role might be quite narrow and advancing in your career can often take a bit longer.

Here are some more questions that might help you decide if an independent agency is right for you:

  • Do you want to work in an environment that is less of a hierarchy and where job titles are left at the door? Whilst there are reporting lines, my experience of independent agencies is that they operate in a much flatter structure with more of an in it together mentality.
  • Do you want to work closely and be mentored daily from a managing director that has 20 odd years experience? The ability to work so closely with a founder of a business can prove invaluable further down the track in understanding how an overall business is run.
  • Do you want to work closely with smaller brands but in much more of a partnership capacity without having to pitch each year? Whilst the brands might not be as well known, the reality is that your agency becomes a genuine extension of their marketing team and are very much a strategic partner.
  • Do you want to know the names of every person in the agency including the owner’s dog? Smaller agencies, due to their size are more family, I’ll leave that with you to decide if that’s a good thing! 
  • Do you want to wear multiple hats each day and know that each day will be completely different? Being pushed and pulled in every direction can certainly build resilience but be aware that one day you might be pitching strategy in a pitch and the next you are making a round of teas for the creatives.

If you gravitated towards this section of the questions then maybe a smaller independent agency is the right fit for you. This environment suits those who are willing to wear lots of different hats and accept that doing less glamorous jobs is part of the fun. You can advance your career quickly but be mindful that in a smaller environment everyone needs to pull their weight for it to work.

What’s your experience with agencies? If different from above, I’d love to hear from you and how your agency is changing the status quo.

If you are a candidate at any stage of your career and would like an honest career conversation then please feel free to get in touch: