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The Side Dish

The Truth About Agency Life

Kira Morgan / 11.20.2018

I’m sure at one point or another you’ve watched a television show or movie where the main character worked at a Scottsdale advertising agency. They spend the day in a super cool, glamorous office, sipping a latte and look as if they just came off the runway. You’ve seen them in a conference room chatting away, then someone spits out a line and wah-lah—it works! Just like that, in a matter of seconds, they are leaving the conference room happy and carefree with a million-dollar idea that the client approved on the spot. Well, I’m here to tell you the truth about working for an advertising agency.

If you think working for an advertising agency means siting in a glamorous office, sipping a latte and looking like a runway model – I’m here to tell you the truth.

Now don’t get me wrong. BIG YAM has a cool working environment where we can send a song request to DJ Momo to jam out and we even have hula hoops where at any given time, we can take a twirl. Oh, and let’s not forget about our popcorn machine. (I LOVE POPCORN!) However, if you based your idea of what it’s like to work at an agency solely from television and movie depictions or agency trimmings, you’re sadly mistaken.

As the consumer, you may only see the final creative product. What is often overlooked is everything else leading up to it. I’m talking about the process – the hard work, dedication and gumption it took to get us there.

Numbers Matter

The truth is that agency life requires crunching the numbers. From developing a proposal in response to an RFP (Request for Proposal) to cranking out estimates commonly referred to as Statement of Works (SOWs), there is a lot of behind-the-scenes action. We are either working within a provided budget or tasked with preparing a budget based on a prospect’s desired needs and timing. Tough questions may need to be asked. Can the prospect’s wish list be accomplished within the provided budget? If not, what are the alternatives? Is there flexibility with the budget? What should be the priority? These conversations are often necessary but are rarely depicted in pop culture.

Strategy Before Creative

Now it’s time to be brutally honest – creative means nothing if it isn’t driven by a well thought out strategy. Before creative work is ever started, it is imperative to build a solid foundation, because let’s face it, if the foundation is weak, the structure won’t hold. We accomplish this by first having a client kickoff meeting where we begin to digest information to help prepare a killer creative brief. This document answers crucial questions, such as the current situation, target audience and brand tone/personality. No matter where you are in the creative process, you should always be able to reference the brief and find clear direction.

Take 2, 3, 4 and 5

Before creative concepts are even presented to a client, they are reviewed and torn apart within the agency. Some concepts (actually lots of concepts) end up on the chopping block. Account services and the creative team have the distinct pleasure of scrutinizing every potential piece of creative. Not only must we do this through our own lens, but also view it from the client’s perspective.


It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for—the BIG REVEAL! We get it, this is a big deal to our clients. This is their brand and money on the line, so we don’t anticipate a decision on the spot. Creative is usually presented to a team of people behind closed doors with straight faces. There is generally some initial gut feedback, but clients realistically need a couple of days to mull it over. Most of the time, feedback is provided that requires us to make adjustments before a final decision is made.

The Bottom Line

Working for an advertising agency isn’t always glamorous, but it is rewarding. If you’re looking for an agency to call home, check out our current open positions. Or, if you’re a business looking for real results, contact the BIG YAM team today!