How to live the agency dream? | The adventures of agency life- Shaune Jordaan

How to live the agency dream?


Living the agency dream is simple: first you need a skill that an agency needs, and in most cases it’s often the skill of negotiation and incredible people skills – that is the easiest route in. Going the route of a creative, or data/search/media can be challenging and there is lots to learn. Which is more exciting? Well, I would say a combination of the two. Understanding strategy and being willing to dive deep into it is key, but not too deep unless you plan on remaining in the creative/strategy side of agency life. Personally I feel (and it may apply to some others as well) that living the agency dream means staying close to clients, remaining on top of the finances, and getting the best out of the creative minds and data around us. Also, it’s far more fun talking ‘shop’ or having ‘dops’ while impatiently waiting for others to do the work, and then getting the client to praise you for all your efforts. Yes, this is what living the agency dream is for me.

The maverick in the middle is mostly loved by staff on the floor, and by the clients too. The role of a ‘suit’ is an essential function to any agency because without them, there would be no agency. I can just imagine the creatives and digital teams jumping up in arms after reading this. But the fact is that suits make agencies tick. I see tons of crap campaigns, digital work and poor search marketing in this market, yet clients are eating it up. It’s the suits that pay the bills after all. If you wanna live the agency dream stay close to the money, stay closer to your clients, and learn fast. Build relationships with creatives, production, traffic and then enjoy reaping the rewards. Yes, suits can be disliked by some, but hell, paradise comes at a price.

Other tips to live the dream at the agency:

  • Culture is everything, so immerse yourself in it. Get involved, attend those parties and socialist as much as you can.
  • Get to know your bosses but make sure the lines don’t become too blurred.
  • Never be afraid to volunteer to pitch to clients or share your ideas – even if they seem totally crazy.
  • Confidence can often take you further than skill, so if you have it, flaunt it, because smart, confident minds go far in this industry.
  • Make friends with the CFO – yes the are normally boring (Graham our CFO is boring but drinks so he is okay) but they are the ones who pay you.
  • Make sure HR has no idea who you are.

Making the dream even better is landing great clients. This is the biggest challenge you will ever face. Most clients only listen to themselves and hardly to the agency. The ones that do listen, the open-minded ones, are the ones who get the best out of agencies and often find themselves ahead of the game. Be sure to challenge your clients to be brave and to trust in what you can do.

So those are my agency tips – some are pretty average, but still useful. I asked some staff to describe what it means for them to live the agency dream:

Vicky: Hunt, but let others thinks you’re being hunted. Act vulnerable but stay close to peers at the top. Eat or be eaten. That’s Vicky for you.

Estelle: Expect to never sleep and live with stress. Redbull & Borocca = living. Ooooohhh also bribe HOD’s!

James: Make friends with the nearest bar staff.

Madre: Create work that piss your competitors off thus building your internal reputation. This = awards.

Andre: Yes means yes, and no means yes. Make “nothing is impossible” your mantra.

Petrus: Wear protection.

Adam: You must be able to be self-motivated and you must be able to adapt. Work hours don’t work. You must be drawn to stress and pushing your self to be great. The challenges are great but like Romans – rise!

Michelle (Intern): Have food in your drawer but lock it, because lunch does not exist if your are an intern or any of the above, really.

Shana: Get yourself a tough skin – people speak their minds in this industry and you need to be able to take the hits.

Final thought:

I have always wanted to work at Saatchi & Saatchi ever since I was 19 years old. My initial passion was in copy writing and I would often find myself dreaming of the next TV ad. I pursued my studying in Communications and English intentionally hoping to explode into the ad world – yet this never happened quite like I’d planned. I attempted to join Saatchi in 2005 as an intern but never heard back from anyone – even after I impressed everyone at the bar with my drinking abilities. To think I would end up at Saatchi eight years later, after purchasing my agency Synergize , is kind of crazy. My passion went from being a ‘wet-nosed-wanna-be’ creative copywriter, to a hardcore ‘data-search-marketing-performance-media retro nerd’. It was a long way from TV ads I tell you. Living the dream and having fun has always seemed to result in success.



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