I worked at an ad agency for about a year and a half and it was the most amazing and one of the hardest times of my life. I got to do some really great work for some really cool clients. It pushed me to a level in my career that I never thought I could achieve.
For my marketing girls, I specialized in paid social media, so working with clients on launching, strategizing and optimizing any and all of their paid social media ads for both direct response and branding.
I went through a lengthy interview process and on my first day, I remember thinking how did I land this job? It was the coolest work environments/culture I have and probably will ever work in. It had a loft with TVs and video games, a fully stocked bar in the middle of the office, open concept desks, happy hours, free snacks, kickball league and so much more; it was the epitome of a hip and cool agency.
I was very young and had A LOT to learn. There was a lot of training and lingo to do. ROI, CTR, AOV… it was a foreign language to me.
When working on clients like J.Crew, Cole Haan, Lilly Pulitzer, etc. you have to make sure you are prepped and ready before just jumping into a call. I was lucky to have some amazing managers who taught me so well. Seriously, I couldn’t have asked for better people to help me while I was in this stage of my life. I still think about them today and often try to channel them in the decisions or meetings I’m in.
10 Things I Learned While Working At An Ad Agency
1. Speak Up
As an introvert, this was something that took me forever to learn, and I don’t really think I embraced it until I ended up leaving the agency life. It felt like every week, in my one-on-one my manager was telling me I needed to speak up. Sure that seems so easy, just talk!
Now let me set the scene…
5-10 SUPER SMART people in a conference room including your manager, other equals and their managers on the phone with 3-6 people from J.Crew and 1-2 people from Facebook. Intimidating does not even come close to describing the feeling. Of course, over time you warm up but weekly calls never came easily to me…remember I’m an introvert.
Even in internal meetings to brainstorms, it was hard to voice my opinion. However, I soaked up so much knowledge from others that when I did leave I was able to feel confident to share my voice and opinion.
2. Details Details Details
In my head, I thought “Oh, I pay attention to details.” There was one report that I worked every single month and EVERY SINGLE MONTH I got it wrong. I would work so hard on it and be so confident, send it on for approval and would get it back with notes like “The images are not all aligned” or “Slide 3 is missing a period.”
This really taught me to look through every single thing with a fine tooth comb, which now comes in handy when looking at reports, emails, and other tasks.
3. Client Professionalism
When working with big brands you have to be professional. I learned how to be professional while still be personable and making a connection.
Example: Asking what the client is doing over the weekend instead of talking about the weather.
Seems easy until you freeze and have to create small talk before other people jump on the conference line.
I even learned simple skills like writing an email to a client. For probably the first six months of my agency career, my manager checked and proofed all my emails. I learned how to open an email, format it, even a good way to sign it.
4. 2 Drink Max
Like I mentioned before our office had a bar and a frequent bartender on Fridays with multiple happy hours a week and dinners or meetings. It’s super easy to go crazy and drink a lot, especially when it’s all free. However, no one wants to be that co-worker. Although I was the minority sometimes, I liked to stick to the 2 drink maximum policy…except maybe the Christmas party.
5. Client Comes First
The client comes first. It doesn’t matter if it’s 11 pm or you are leaving for vacation, the client always comes first. It’s a hard life to live, but it really makes for good client relations and a better work life when the client is happy.
6. Q4 will make or break you
Whew, holiday… there is too much to be learned in Q4. I started my agency job, in late September so I was pretty much thrown into Q4. My first “holiday” I remember going through the training, signing up for my shifts and then absolutely guessing and not knowing what the heck I was doing. My second holiday was MUCH smoother, but the pressure and stress of optimizing ad campaigns with hundreds of thousands of dollars really never go away.
7. The perks are great, but the work is hard
Sure, it looks great on Instagram, the free beer and wine, the fancy trips to New York, the free gifts and dinners from vendors, but what you don’t see is working from 9-6 PM and 10-12 AM or canceling your weekend plans because you have to work or working on Thanksgiving.
The perks have to be great or no one would work that hard!
8. Excel knowledge is key
Yeah, in the interview I said I “knew” Excel. HA! It wasn’t until I learned to a pivot table and V-look up with my eyes closed I could really say I knew Excel.
9. Find a friend
Remember I started in late September and I’m introvert, now combine that with a weekend-long Christmas party in Austin (we lived in Fort Worth) with significant others, and BOOM anxiety sets in. Jared couldn’t make it to the Christmas party, so it was me and only me with all these coworkers I barely knew in a bus and a different city for a weekend. Luckily, I met one of my best friends Emily. She was an intern at the time but was transitioning to fulltime and she was also alone on this trip.
Looking back Emily was my ride or die and lifesaver that God placed in my life to help me survive at this job. We were there to listen to each other, ask for help, vent, and overall moral support.
Finding Emily was one of the best things that came out of my agency life.
10. Mistakes happen
Mistakes do happen, but it really only takes one BIG mistake for you to learn your lesson. Shortly after I started I accidentally turned on a bunch of international ads and spent thousands of dollars…oops! I will never forget the conversation I had with my manager and then letting the client know we accidentally spent a bunch of their money. Man! It was tough but it was the wake-up call I needed and I never made that mistake again!
Although my agency life was short-lived, I learned so much! Like I said agency life is NOT for everyone, ultimately it wasn’t for me. I felt so much happier moving to the client side. However, I would have never gained the knowledge I did, make the connections I made, and have the best friend I do without exploring agency life. Plus, I do have some pretty awesome stories from it!