Myth vs Reality: Agency Life

Over the past few weeks working as an account management intern at 160/90, I have constantly been in conversation with my roommates, peers, colleagues, professors, parents, you name it about what the reality of working in an agency has been like. And let me tell you it isn’t quite what the myths had made it out to be. I shared a few of these observations with a professor of mine, but I felt that they were worth sharing publicly.

Maybe you’re just starting your education in advertising and communications or maybe you’re well into it, but I am certain we have all heard about the biggest agency myth: there is no work life balance. We have all been taught that this is one of the fastest paced industries in the world and that it demands your attention at all hours. Whether that means showing up early to finish a presentation or staying late to come up with that viral idea, you are told if you don’t devote every hour to an agency you won’t make it. Very a la “Mad Men”.

I am here to tell you that after only three weeks working at an advertising agency I can say advertising professionals know how to work hard and play hard. If you really think about it advertising is a people based industry. It’s about connecting with consumers, eliciting a feeling from an audience, and getting them to answer some call to action. The people who work in advertising have an interest in people and what makes them tick. So it’s no different at offices across the globe that advertising professionals are returning to connect with their peers in person. At my agency we have breakfast together every Tuesday before work and snacks and drinks after work every Thursday. Everyone puts a hard stop to their work and comes together as people. It helps humanize the peers we are working with and allow us to connect with each other. If we at 160/90 can be a cohesive team that can enjoy each others company, then we can put out better work as a team.

That being said it isn’t even required for everyone to come into work. The agency now just expects people to take personal accountability for getting their work done. Whether they are doing it at home or in the office doesn’t really matter. This has allowed people to spend more time with their families, and not miss out on big events and mile stones like I myself even worried about happening from time to time.

Agency life has taken a hard left turn from the unbalanced way it used to be, and it’s definitely for the better.

Besides that major myth, one I was more worried about was being a “non-creative” in a creative industry means you have no say in the content or work produced from the agency. I myself am a very creative person, but I don’t have the technical skills to make my ideas come to life. So the thought of being stuck in the account lane and not being able to touch the creative is a very upsetting thought to me.

That fear was quelled on maybe day two I think, when I found out that the account manager is pivotal to the creative process. They are the ones who have been there from the start of the project or even sometimes the clients journey as a whole. They know what the client wants and what the strategy is, and can therefore guide the work in the right direction. At the same time they can advocate for their team to try and push the client out of their comfort zone, hopefully pushing the boundaries of their creativity.

This is exactly the lane that I want to be in because it allows me to be creative even though I lack refined design skills. Everyday at this agency I learn more about my chosen profession and the reality of working on an agency team like 160/90. It becomes less scary as time goes on, and I hope this post made it less intimidating for you to.

One comment

  1. Matthew, After seeing the title of your blog post I was very interested and knew I wanted to read more. I know that some agencies treat their employees poorly and don’t pay well. I like and appreciate the turn you took on this post by sharing your feelings and experiences. I think others who read this will hopefully have a smile and some more hope!

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