What You Need to Know about Inside Agency Life

What You Need to Know about Inside Agency Life

Image painted in seconds by AI.
Try AI stories for employer branding

Men in tailored suits, hair Brylcreemed back, swilling whiskey at 11am on a Tuesday morning. While obviously set in a very different time, the seminal TV series Mad Men has given many outsiders a twisted impression of what agency life might be like.

Setting aside the catcalling and rampant alcoholism depicted on the show, other, less garish ideas regarding working at a marketing agency seem to have wormed their way into the public consciousness. Marketers, many will say, are forced to work all hours, running around after big clients and their big wallets. Morals are questionable, and selling ice to Eskimos is applauded.

Speaking with two agency Managing Directors, Kath Blackham of Deepend and Chris Henderson of Mullenlowe Profero, modern agency life is about as far away from these Mad Menic depictions as anyone – even the most creative team of TV writers – could imagine. So if not Brylcreem and Blue Label Johnnie Walker, then what?

A healthy company culture

Both Henderson and Blackham have put a focus on building a strong, vibrant and supportive company culture – and by ‘strong’ we’re not talking the sort of testosterone arms race that many might envisage; we’re talking about creating a unified group, all rowing in the same direction and smiling while they do it.

Mullenlowe Profero have a wealth of activities that aim to build a strong team culture, which extend far beyond the standard Friday drink:

  • Profero Uni is a monthly presentation from a member of staff that aims to teach the rest of the team about their area of expertise.
  • MAKE is a similar presentation, but must be about something outside of work.
  • Hackathons see the agency divided into teams which are asked to identify and solve a problem in one day.
  • Quarterly staff parties allow employees to mingle in a variety of casual – or indeed stressful – settings, including escape rooms, bowling nights, movies and cooking classes.

Blackham believes that a healthy company culture starts with a healthy individual. “I’m really big on health and wellbeing”, she admits, “so we put a lot of effort into our mental health program”. A variety of strategies help to this end, including a weekly mindfulness session, a space with puzzles and games that can help to either boost creativity or relax the mind, and a library with noise-cancelling headphones in which employees can momentarily escape from the frenetic pace of agency life. This extends to psychologists speaking to the staff regularly to check how they’re going.

Employees as names, not numbers

Blackham takes the time to get to know every one of her employees personally “I make it my business to get to know people’s situations – who they are, what they do, their relationships and what’s going on”, she says. “We recently had an employee go through the breakup of a long term relationship. Because we share a good relationship that person knew that I’m here to talk. It’s about support. If you’re feeling down and need to leave during the workday, we understand, and you can work from home for a while”.

This focus on the individual extends to their long term hopes and dreams.Blackham appreciates that working at her agency may not be the end goal for many, if not most of her employees, and she is more than comfortable with that.

In fact she’s started an entrepreneurs club at Deepend – of which over half her employees are a part – that actively encourages motivated individuals to chase their dreams. Guest speakers are invited in monthly and the practicalities of running your own business are covered at length. “They’ll all eventually leave when they’re rich and famous”, saysBlackham with a smile, “but that’s a really good reason to leave”. She’s happy to see people chase their dreams – an attitude that many will find surprising from just a business perspective, let alone from the MD of a marketing agency.

A work/life balance

The ‘work is life’ culture that Mad Men portrays is far from the reality found within the walls of modern, forward-thinking agencies. Henderson sums Mullenlowe Profero’s outlook as “having self-awareness that ‘agency life’ is just one of many facets of a person’s life experience”. A healthy work/life balance has serious benefits in terms of an employee’s productivity; benefits that Henderson sees on a daily basis thanks to the support and job flexibility that Mullenlowe Profero’s employees enjoy.

“It’s about understanding that a person’s job doesn’t define them”, Henderson adds. Much like Blackham and her desire to know her charges personally, Henderson knows that you can get the best out of someone by knowing them as more than ‘Sandra from IT’ or ‘Greg from Accounting’.

It’s not all about the money

Having spent 15 years working closely with a variety of CEOs, and knowing what many expect from those who work for them, Blackham started Deepend knowing that she’d never expose her employees to that often toxic culture. Instead she started Deepend with flexibility in mind, and sees it as less a job, and more a ‘lifestyle choice’.

For Blackham this extends to the main aim of Deepend, which, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t all about the dollar signs. “I’m not really in it to sell it”, she admits, “so that’s our differentiator, I suppose. We’re not constantly sniffing around for buyers, and that gives people here a sense of stability. Never say never, but I just can’t imagine a scenario right now in which I’d want to do that. I really, really love what I do”. What’s more, in an ideal world she’d be working exclusively for not-for-profits – not exactly the most fruitful of endeavours – but one that allows all involved to feel good about their work.

So over and above a glaring lack of mid-morning drinking and catcalling, thanks to the likes of Blackham and Henderson it seems that almost every aspect of modern agency life finds itself at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared with HBO’s seemingly dated depiction.

And while whiskey distillers may not be, we for one are incredibly glad that’s the cas

Try AI-powered Employer Branding to attract & retain talent

72 AI-powered languages

Trusted by the world’s top brands

Dedicated Customer Success

What is Employer Branding?
Employer Branding is essential for any company looking to recruit or retain talent. Your employees now have the same expectation as customers - in other words they want to know 'why' they should work for you, not just 'what' they are doing.

What is your company story and what do you stand for as an employer? Employer Branding content builds trust with your employees, increases your marketplace reputation and turns you into an employer of choice.

In today's environment employers need to work hard to stay relevant and create environments where employees are engaged and motivated. A strong Employer Branding strategy -projecting a positive brand identity - can help attact and retain the right people.

Especially in times of recession it is important for companies to set themselves apart from the competition and create strong bonds with their existing and future employees.

The Martec's AI-powered Employer Branding content tool is the most powerful platform on the planet for Employer Branding strategy, content creation, distribution and reporting. Used by many of the worlds' top Employer Brands for scale, impact and precision.

And 100+ other world class employer brands across 30 countries