Media agencies: comparing Apples with Oranges?

By news

One of the biggest barriers to candidates realising their true potential is the premise that all media agencies are the same. This theory can act as a severe stumbling block in the career aspirations of individuals. Candidates who abide by this theory tend to stay in their current agency or wait for that once in a life time opportunity perhaps on the client side, therefore missing fantastic opportunities that come their way with other agencies.

There are many factors that aim to differentiate one media agency to the next, such as size, people, clients, type or culture. Some agencies may have similarities, but there will always be that special attribute that distinguishes one from another.


The size of an agency is an obvious difference between them, but this differentiator has a greater significance than simply the amount of employees who work there. As consultants we speak to candidates who dislike their role because they feel like they get lost in the crowd of a large agency and would like a larger voice. They would prefer to be a big fish in a small pond.

At the same time we often hear candidates say that they’d prefer to work in a bigger team or agency, get the taste for a global network. Joining and agency that is different in size just might be the missing part of the puzzle for your next career move.


There can be no doubts about it, an agency’s people have a larger bearing on its success and truly are any company’s greatest asset. A trend that we are seeing is the effect that talent leaving an agency can have. This can have positive or negative implications. You may be dealing with the boss from hell and feel like each day is a struggle. Then suddenly he/she leaves and life seems dandy.

Or on the other side of the coin, you might decide to make the change and move on to something new, to work with difference people with different working styles.

Another point to consider is the impact that key decision-makers have in their respective agencies. You might not agree with how an agency is being run or buy into the direction set out by the powers that be. Quite often, agencies are also run differently under the leadership of key stakeholders.


It can be quite common to learn your clients’ accounts and know them inside and out. This can lead to your job being quite repetitive and exhausting, which may then result in the realisation that it’s time to look for a new role. Working across new and exciting clients can really make your job experience enjoyable. If there is an option within your own agency to move on to new accounts, this could be the spark you need to make you enjoy coming to work every day again. If this is not possible and you feel like you are becoming bored of your clients, a move to another agency and working across new accounts might be an option.


Yes there are different types of media agencies. Some specialise in strategy and planning, others are focused on buying and then there are agencies that do everything. You may be stuck in an agency and a role that does simply not match your characteristics or personality. At that same time, you might be in an agency that undervalues your particular skill set whether that be SEO, PPC, TV buying or display, etc. If you are unsure of agency specialities, it might be worth doing some research and we would be happy to help you with it.


If there was ever a piece of evidence that not all media agencies are the same, then culture would be it. All the above points certainly add to the culture and overall environment of each agency. The creation and development of People & Culture teams have certainly been a contributing factor to the improved culture and working environment of media agencies. We’ve noticed agencies trying to differentiate themselves by offering attractive benefit packages. They focus on helping you to improve soft skills, provide self-development opportunities, team building activities or contributing to society by participating in charity work. Another facet that certainly helps is what the agency looks like from the inside – the building, the layout, the lot.


Next time you see or hear of an opportunity with another competing media agency, take the time to research the agency further and ask about the 5 points above. An agency’s size, people, clients, time and culture all play key roles in differentiating one agency to the next. There certainly are similarities between agencies, but it could be a subtle change that makes all the difference.

Take it from a digital and media recruitment consultant; if all media agencies were the same then we would only work with a handful of clients. Thankfully they all offer a different total package, so we are able to improve our product offering and choice to candidates.


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