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Display In-House to Agency – A Tale of Transition

Published: November 9, 2012

Author: Sean Nowlin

Turns out it’s not that bad. Honest.
Before coming to PPC Associates, I had spent the previous few years in-house. It was an awesome experience working for a big digital advertiser. I acquired a breadth of experience across multiple display opportunities. And it was a pleasure to work with numerous fantastic people. So it was a tough decision to leave.
I knew that things would change but wasn’t quite sure what to expect moving to the agency side. A former colleague had once told me about the horrors of agency life. Now that I’ve been here for nine months, I thought it would be a good time to think about my perceptions and how they have changed since I joined PPC Associates.
Horror show? Let’s find out.

I work out of my home office in Cleveland. Moving from side-by-side quarters to being solo most of the time was a concern for me, especially since I had gotten to know so many good people. New colleagues would get to know me primarily over email and the phone. How would I get ingrained in a new culture? To this point, working from home hasn’t affected this at all. I do travel quite a bit, so I have gotten to hang out with my colleagues on more than one occasion. If I hardly traveled, this might be a different story. But I feel like a part of something here at PPC Associates. Being remote has not held me back in this regard.
I can tell you that working for an agency is not horrible at all. I’m sure that working at a large, multi-national firm is probably a different story, though. Here the typical pains come from being a young company that is growing very fast. The hours one puts in feel like more of an actual contribution to the future, not going through the motions just because the job calls for dedication by default. Sure, there is a difference between juggling the needs of one client (in-house) and those of a few (or more). But being able to utilize my display experience for different clients with different products and services is the key. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.
It’s really easy to be creative with a tremendously large budget. No matter where I go, it would be highly unlikely that I would ever manage spend comparable to my last stop. But I’ve found that working with smaller budgets just calls for a different kind of creativity. Where once I was restricted by internal business rules, I am now free to try different opportunities for our clients. One key learning here is restricting the “kitchen sink” approach. Smaller client spend calls for a smaller mix of vendors. Spreading out a small budget across 10 vendors doesn’t make a lot of sense from a statistical-significance point of view.
I can honestly say that I have an appreciation for anyone else who has gone through an upfront planning process. Vetting annual plans is an intense activity that is unlike anything I had done before. Q4 was always a sprint until the holidays. Of course, the rest of the year was busy too, but those last few months were always interesting. I expected a different kind of “busy” here, and it is indeed a part of my daily life. Each day is a combination of static and dynamic. Planned weekly tasks and last-minute requests are part of the normal. The different kind of busy here, however, is all of this is for multiple clients instead of just one. The joy of variety applies here as well.
Working on display in an agency environment has been great so far. The mix of different clients, vendor relationships, and new colleagues has made the transition an easy one for me. Horror show it is not.
– Sean Nowlin, Sr. Display Media Manager

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Chicago, IL 60602(650) 539-4124


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