Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Agency marketers: the coolest people you know

Agencies attract weird characters. Maybe it’s the inclusiveness and diversity of the place that invites the fringe and bizarre among us and becomes self-reinforcing. I’ve also noticed that agency folk can be incredibly talented and have fascinating, unique interests. These quirks and idiosyncrasies are endearing and give a lot of shops their mosaic quality of employee mix. Here’s a few of the people who you can find:

(Images are courtesy of – an AWESOME site for your Williamsburg hipster stereotype fix)


Client Services is usually identifiable by their abrasive and up-front demeanor when dealing with internal people, but polished and accommodating style when managing the client. Dead giveaways for an Account Manager could be a desk full of lots of client swag, a calendar of upcoming campaigns, and a general confusion of the activities going on in other parts of the agency. Account Executives, by comparison, can be easily identified by their dark sexy clothes, familiarity with the business and industry of their client (to be strongly contrasted against the more junior Account Manager), and no nonsense attitude when dealing with other members of the agency. Did I mention that Client Services is a great place for over-confident Gen Ys to start in the business?

Food: Sushi
Music: Wolfmother
Destination: New York
School: Bachelors of Arts, Psychology (can also be replicated with History, Philosophy, English, Religion)
Things to say to the team: "Great job on the presentation/campaign/creative!" (Note, client services will likely have worked on none of these)
Things to never say to the team: "Didn't you see the latest email from the client?"


The studio stays to itself. Mostly it’s because they’re under a time-crunch to get projects completed and have limited time to shoot the breeze with bored coworkers from other departments. The studio is the creative powerhouse of any agency and as such, its employees are as fringe and as cultured as it gets.

Easily identifiable by tattoos, piercings (visible and non-visible, both of which usually appear after hours at the bar), But they’re also incredibly approachable and balance out the more frantic departments.

Food: Jamaican – something spicy, esoteric, and threatening to ill-prepared stomachs
Music: LCD Soundsystem
Destination: Montreal
School: Diploma, Art Design, CAD, Illustration
Things to say to the team: "Dude, your hat is dope, let’s go for lunch!"
Things to never say to the team: "I think the font should be larger and left justified. It just looks better." (Do not say this, especially if you happen to work in Client Services!)


You better hope you understand the Digital Team when they start speaking in acronyms and jargon. FTP, SEM, SEO, CPC, DMOZ, CPM, CTR, SERP, AJAX, API, CMS, and XML are some terms which the digital team will never fully explain and probably doesn’t fully understand itself.

This team is overworked and it shows. Clothing is loose and non-bunching and desks are organized so as to be ergonomically efficient for the marathon stretches of coding, testing, fixing, testing, fixing, deployment, and fixing that is inevitably required from any online campaign.

They’re also incredibly web-savvy themselves and know more about social media, online marketing, and good web standards than anyone else in the agency.

Food: Italian – comfort food is a plus
Music: The Eagles – or something else that’s easy to listen to and not too loud
Destination: Cuba – think relaxation, not stimulation
School: Diploma in Graphics Design, Software Development, or Web Development
Things to say to the team: "Can you believe the timeline they’ve set us to? Doesn’t the client team understand the testing and debugging that needs to be done for this microsite?"
Things to never say to the team: "I’m not on Facebook, I think social networking is a fad..."


Poor data folk. Poor, poor data folk. Relegated to a dark corner of the office and given limited interaction to the rest of the agency. No wonder then that the Data Team can become a little insular and somewhat of a monoculture within the broader organization.

When you meet someone at an agency with their shirt tucked in, they’re likely in the Data Team. If they mention any analysis function in Excel, Access, SAS, SQL, or SPSS, stay away, they are from the Data Team. If they offer to explain how to properly perform QAT but they swear that it will be a simple explanation, then by all means…STAY AWAY!

But they’re remarkably friendly despite their isolation from the rest of the agency and the tight deadlines under which they operate. Like compatible signs on the zodiac, Data actually gets along best with the Digital Team because of commonalities in the work process and a shared understanding for nerdy things like Flash, CRM, and Family Guy. Additionally, intimacy with the consumer campaign data – at the core of modern marketing based on optimizing for relevance – means that analysts on the Data Team have a zen-like clarity with the issues that must be addressed in the account. It’s illuminating to sit with the Data Team and hear about data-based account issues including churn, low activation, or behavioral trending. They’ve often got great suggestions.

Food: Chinese – something greasy and tasty
Music: If they listen to music, which is rare since data entry can be so engrossing, then adult contemporary or generic hip hop is popular
Destination: Camping in Algonquin Park – there’s no spreadsheets and queries there!
School: Bachelors of Science (Chem and Bio are popular), Bachelor of Commerce
Things to say to the team: "Did you see those clickthrough rates for the English Family Existing Self-identified segment on Client X’s last campaign? Crazy!"
Things to never say to the team: "Why doesn’t the forecasting model work properly?"


Unfortunately I’ve found that these experts are rarely as qualified as they claim to be and neglect the critical responsibility of listening to the feedback from other parts of the agency which also have direct interaction with the account.

Nevertheless, the Research Department can lend considerable insight to the account about customer behavior, industrial trending, and messaging. They’ll know the right words to say for the copy and the right slogan to use in the header. The client loves them because they get a chance to talk openly and honestly about how the account is evolving without the saccharine effusiveness and stifling sycophantism of the Client Services team.

This team also has the ear of the agency executives who see research and brand dev as the company’s soothsayers. The Research and Brand Development team is usually identified by loud noise and laughter, usually from the YouTube clips, commercials, and open-door conference calls they have all day.

Food: All-day breakfast – how indulgent and attention-seeking!
Music: Jazz
Destination: Europe – so when they return, they can tell everyone about their perspectives on Europe vs. North America
School: Bachelor of Business Administration
Things to say to the team: "Are consumers using less traditional response channels?"
Things to never say to the team: "Why did you need 100 slides to say what could have been said in just 10?"

So there’s a quick and dirty rundown of who you’ll meet at an agency. It’s almost like going to the zoo and seeing every animal in its habitat. However, to see the full safari of marketers, head to bar that’s closest to the agency’s offices. Swinging from vines, mating calls, and excessive lounging in the sun are all to be found!

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