You’re on the graduate job hunt looking to kick-start a career within marketing and come across the industry debate, ‘in-house vs. agency’. What’s the difference? Both work environments provide a valuable and creative experience for graduates, but it’s important to know how they differ and which is best suited to you. In-house marketing is any marketing campaign or initiative that is not outsourced or created by a third party - the third party being a Marketing, PR, Creative or Digital agency.
Breaking down in-house and agency by their workload, their work environment and their creative process will help with figuring out what to expect before hitting ‘apply’ on the next graduate marketing job application.
The client and the company
Client management will be at the core of your role. Gaining a clear understanding of what your client is/does, their brief, their target audience and requirements will involve an in-depth research of industry competitors, relevant trends and managing expectations. Communicating with the client on a regular basis will be necessary to keep them up-to-date with any creative processes and general updates from both sides.
Working in-house will enable you to see the company’s campaigns from the early planning stages right through to execution. As the company will be your sole focus, you will gain a deeper knowledge of the products or services - this will strengthen through interacting with your audience via social media, reviewing each campaign and being involved with the next steps. In-house marketing teams will be aware of the company’s long-term plans which agencies won’t necessarily be privy to.
In an agency, you will learn how to work and adapt creatively to a wide breadth of projects and have a varied portfolio of clients at your fingertips; from cosmetics, to food, to retailers, large or small. Each industry and client will have different business objectives to adhere to which means no two days will be the same. The ability to juggle tasks and develop a strong skillset will be at the forefront of requirements as will the confidence to dive straight into learning on the job.
Unlike working in an agency, you will be responsible for campaigns that focus on the assets specific to the company you work for. This will enable you to keep in tune with your work pipeline and easily plan your day, week and month. Even though on-the-job learning is essential in-house, particularly in Marketing Assistant roles, training workshops can be offered and conducted company-wide; some can be more department focused, whilst others may involve general office guidance e.g. teamwork.
As an Account Executive in a PR agency, your role will be heavily communicative, as will others around you, creating the buzz and atmosphere agencies are known for. Balancing a number of projects with impending deadlines will also add to the fast-paced agency environment, making sure each are met effectively and efficiently. You will be surrounded by a team of other Account Executives or Account Managers, so everyone will be on the same page and understand who does what and why, even if you’re working with different clients.
In-house creative, marketing or communications teams might be considerably smaller than those in an agency. As each department has different motivations, marketing teams may have to prove the value of a campaign idea; some projects may achieve ROI (Return On Investment), but others may build brand awareness which could be just as valuable, raising the company’s profile and help secure new leads. Despite working for the same company, each team will have different goals, targets and schedules to keep track of, however, useful information can be offered by other teams e.g. the buying team in a retailer head office can offer their expertise on a new collection, which could later help the marketing and communications teams with a promotional hook.
The creative process
Despite being outside of the client’s internal thought processes and procedures, agencies have the creative freedom to put “out of the box” ideas onto the client’s radar. Regular contact with the client is crucial to ensure you’re managing expectations and sticking to the brief, and although there are fewer restrictions within the initial idea creation process, agencies will need to confirm budgets and await sign-off from clients before pursuing.
Initial mind-mapping and creative planning can take place within the company and agencies can propose separate ideas or embellish those put together in-house. When putting forward new ideas and methods, creative constraints from management, specific targets or budgets could occur, but it’s important to remember every company is different. In-house teams may require an agency to offer guidance and backing when pitching an idea, they believe will be a success.
There are plenty of benefits to working in-house and in an agency, but before your next graduate marketing job application, be sure to consider the following:
- What you would like to develop?
- What seems most suited to your interests?
- What sort of environment would you excel in?
Both can offer plenty of creative opportunities, but ultimately the choice is yours!