In this op-ed, Will Koukouras (pictured), national director of Publicis Sport & Entertainment, explains why moving from client-side to agency has given him a distinct advantage in his new role and made him a “client whisperer” of sorts.
A year ago, I took a risk and jumped the fence. After more than 15 years as a client-side marketer, I joined Publicis Groupe ANZ to lead its Sport & Entertainment division. I had consistently heard the benefits that this would bring towards my marketing potential, but what I discovered was so much more.
I quickly realised the advantage I had in understanding the inner workings of our most important partner – our clients. Having walked in the client’s shoes means I have a sense of empathy and inherent curiosity to listen to their marketing aspirations and their expectations of us as an agency. I can appreciate the broader role that marketing plays in their business and how important it is that their agencies are delivering a joined-up response. And as an experienced marketer, my understanding of consumer behaviour, market trends and brand objectives helps bridge the gap between strategy and execution.
Coming from a brand background to inside an agency can, therefore, be a secret weapon – almost like a ‘client whisperer’. You can be trusted to provide feedback to your teams while being an honest sounding board for clients.
From a career perspective, since moving agency-side I have been able to test and expand my marketing capabilities across a wide range of clients and industries. In just 12 months, I have gone from understanding the inner workings of one industry to over ten. It keeps things new and interesting, and it surely must be the quickest way to grow your marketing skills and broaden your career horizons.
I am also learning to be more accountable for financial outcomes, something most brand marketers don’t necessarily have to face. This, in turn, has made me more self-reflective. Indeed, the two questions that now keep me up at night are: Would you buy what you are selling? And how are you different to your competition? This seems counterintuitive for a marketer, however, looking inwards has proved more difficult than handing out advice.
My learning is to surround yourself with good people and seek the support of mentors and coaches. Their shared experiences will help you navigate the unknown, and they will help you learn new models and ways of working so you can develop your sales systems and value proposition.
If you’re like me, this also includes getting yourself a reverse mentor (an idea I stole from personal growth expert Chris Savage). Appointing a younger person as a mentor is one way to become the oldest person in the room and stay relevant in times of change. They can give you a fresh perspective on life, a better understanding of technology trends and help you break down barriers that come from joining a holding group later in your career.
I believe the marketing industry would be better off if more marketers moved agency-side. It will result in agency teams who can help see the big picture and can draw on their experience from working across multiple industries to drive meaningful change. Their empathy will help strengthen the bond between client and agency, and the accountability that comes with controlling their own financials ensures they can talk the language of the C-Suite.
If you are thinking about jumping the fence, I hope I have given you something to think about.