Agency or Client Side

By Tricia Liverpool

Agency or Client Side

​Having spent the last number of years talking to marketing professionals, the most common debate is what is better, Agency vs Client Side? This rings true whether I am speaking to a Chief Marketing Officer looking to hire or a Group Account Director looking to make the move and my response is always the same – it completely depends on the role and the person.

Take for example the CEO of an advertising firm who was looking to add to his business with the appointment of a new Business Director. When I asked about the key competencies of the perfect individual he rattled off a wish-list of agencies that he expected the candidate to come from. After he confirmed the person hired would service one banking client only, I asked if he would consider someone currently working in a bank who might have had an agency background and was willing to return? The thought had never crossed his mind.

Even more common is the conversations I have with candidates. Almost every single agency person is seeking the holy grail of client side due to the most part because:

1. I will get to shape the marketing/communications/marcomms strategy.

2. I will have the final say.

3. I can hire and fire the agency.

4. I can see things right through to completion rather than feeling like I am continually running projects.

5. I will work less hours!

6. I will “be” the client.


My response is for you to imagine you are a sole contributor in an organisation. It can be both lonely and frustrating, in fact one candidate I spoke to was convinced that no one in the company he worked for actually knew or cared what he did each day! In an agency you are in a team environment and all pulling for the same outcome. And the client pays a fee so they have to engage with them fully if they are to get their money’s worth. However the trend has been for a number of agency people to want to join “The Client”, however the opposite happening more and more as there are so few good opportunities out there.

Agencies used to be the places that only young people wanted to work in as the buzz and excitement of multi-tasking was seen as attractive. However there are only a handful of great clients who take their marketing/communications strategy seriously and staff it accordingly and so a number of people are realising that an agency can be great for a long term career depending on the team culture and client relationships. Also Singapore is an expensive place to do business so increasingly companies are having their marketing and communications functions based offshore.

Similarly a number of clients are seeing agency people as “the holy grail” in terms of their hiring given the skills and attributes they bring to the table. Ultimately so long as there is a clear strategy and the culture of an organisation suits, it is good for the candidate. On the flip side, if the person brings with them the right competencies and they are the right cultural fit, it is good for the client.

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