Agencies rarely admit their flaws, but their staffers are more than happy to point them out. Case in point: Digiday spent some time trawling through reviews of major agencies posted on employment community site Glassdoor.com in the last year. Sure, this is a self-selected crowd that may skew toward the axe-grinding types. With that caveat in mind, here’s what we learned about life behind agency doors:
Successful agencies tend to have people actually working at them:
“Advice to senior management – Stop quitting,” wrote one anonymous Digitas employee.
Some agencies can travel through time:
“Fire up the DeLorean, because DDB has excellent time traveling capabilities! When you’re working here you really feel like the 70’s never ended; the top-heavy management style, the pace, the boys club, the salaries (unadjusted for inflation), the decor, it’s all right on the money,” wrote an anonymous employee at DDB New York.
What agency staffers want isn’t always what’s best for them:
“Pros – Great new building! And open space. Cons – Open space is kind of distracting,” a senior project manager at Y&R New York commented.
In-office decapitation is a distraction too:
“A place where chickens have their heads cut off is not the most conducive learning or working environment,” complained an Anomaly New York staffer.
Quitting is often the easiest way to get a promotion:
“When people quit, you know that you are going to see them working again at R/GA again within a year or so and that somehow they are going to end up being your boss,” said a Flash designer at R/GA New York.
Brooklyn agencies can be a bit … Brooklyn:
“People are kind of smug, and the Brooklyn thing can be annoying,” wrote one freelancer about Dumbo-based digital design shop Huge. Another reviewer went into a little more detail: “Attitude, attitude, attitude! Staff has the average age of spermatozoa and walk around like they’re God’s gift to the industry. Ridiculously cliquey. You may succeed if you get in with the “right” people and want to drink Jaeger in your Ray Bans.”
Chimps don’t make good managers, even if they’re on speed:
“If there was ever a dysfunctional, bizzaro management team, this is it. And not in a cool, creative way,” said an AKQA employee. “Just because you have a monkey on speed, doesn’t mean that the monkey is smart. And it certainly doesn’t mean said monkey is a good manager.”
Some agency stereotypes exist for a reason:
“It seemed like everyone was 22-24 years old, spending the days screwing around (which is why I think people worked till midnight sometimes), and then heading to work happy hours every night. I can see how it would be a good thing if you’re new to the city and looking to make friends, but as someone who already has a social network, a boyfriend, and other hobbies, I often felt out of place, like I wasn’t a team player because I didn’t go out with them all the time,” said a disgruntled former VaynerMedia staffer.
Agency turnover is as rapid and brutal as ever:
“Twenty-eight percent employee turnover, so faces are always changing,” said a JWT employee. “Humiliating process of getting rid of employees (no notice, lock down your computer, 15 minutes to clear your desk and get out), lack of new clients, standard craziness of advertising agencies in general.”
Despite the frustrations, agency life can still be a blast:
“Great colleagues, very smart, young, and friendly. Awesome social life, makes staying at work after hours not so bad — it’s fun,” wrote a former Grey employee but added, “Cons — No pay, very difficult to get promoted (it’s promised, as are raises, but they take extremely long). The only way to really earn money is to jump around from companies.”
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