Jon Bradshaw: The Truth I’ve Learnt Moving From Client Side To Droga5

Jon Bradshaw: The Truth I’ve Learnt Moving From Client Side To Droga5

Marketing heavyweight Jon Bradshaw entered Droga5 back in early 2014 as chief strategy officer. This is the first time the former marketing head of Diageo, Lion and Virgin Mobile has worked on the agency side of the advertising business.

A lot of myths are being debunked recently, with 10 Marketing Myths squashed last week. In this post, Bradshaw discusses the top things he’s learnt from the move, dispelling some ingrained industry myths along the way.

“Nobody goes that way,” pretty much sums up all the advice I got when I asked people if I should leave the cloistered halls of big client side jobs and head agency side.

“Are you fricking mental?” was the other often heard comment. Now I’d be the first to admit I can be a little pig-headed at times, but I really didn’t get it. What on earth was so different and horrendous about working agency side that nobody in their right mind should move from the client world into the light? Nine months into my tenure at Droga 5 it’s probably worth stopping, reflecting and asking, were they right? Did I just make the biggest career mistake ever?

Myth #1: You’ll hate losing the power you have as a client

People think there is a big difference in the power you have; there really isn’t.  I reckon power is an illusion in every business. Everyone has to be a sales person, whatever their C-suite job title. Sure it looked like I got to make some decisions as a client, but not before I’d sold what I was trying to do to my boss, colleagues, team, customers, sales guys, franchisees, the list goes on. From CMO to a CSO – it’s still not your money. In both client and agency land, you’re always selling something.

Same shit, different day. BUSTED.

Myth #2. Working with creative people is difficult for clients

I always enjoyed the creative aspects of the job when I was on client side. The fact that I genuinely like creative folks was part of why I wanted to try agency life. Now that’s not to say that some creative people can’t be difficult. But so it seems are some planners, suits and just as often clients.

Some people are difficult people, welcome to life. There is a difference agency side however. As soon as you are an integral part of the creative process, versus the recipient of it, the need to nurture ideas becomes much more important. Knowing when to grow seed and when to kill weed is a much finer balance this side of the fence. Crucial to being good at that, however, is having a great working relationship with those ‘difficult’ creative people.

If it was actually difficult, I’d be screwed. Fortunately it’s not. BUSTED.

Myth #3: Advertising people work harder

I have one stereotypically Northern English word for this –


This myth exposes how little many agency people know about client side roles. Don’t get me wrong, its bloody hard work over here in agency land. But it’s not harder or longer hours than a client job. Agency work is lumpier, it ebbs and flows more and the ride is slightly less smooth. But it’s still just a lot of work. What’s weird about this myth is that it exists on both sides. I’ve met many a marketer who thinks it’s still all long lunches and crazy parties at the agency.

Yeah right. BUSTED.

Myth #4: Agencies don’t do analytical strategy

One agency CEO I talked to described what they wanted in a planner as ‘a creative person who can’t write or draw’. Whilst I know what they meant, that statement filled me with horror. Sure, I genuinely can’t write or draw, but I want planning to be so much more than that. Nobby, Sudeep and I talked about this a lot before I joined. We want to build out the strategic offering at Droga5 to be broader, deeper and more ‘strategic’ than just ‘planning’, whatever that is.

My view, oft espoused, still unchanged, is that whilst we know that marketing is a genuine mix of art and science, when push comes to shove and deadline meets budget, everyone’s temptation is to abandon the science and hope like hell for creative magic.

Well I’m in the business of creativity now, (and I love it) but I still want to do this job in a way that ensures that creativity is underpinned with the right amount of analysis, thinking and rigour to do the job it needs to do. Which in case any of us have forgotten as we fret about scam ads and award fixing, is not to win creative awards, but to sell more stuff.

And that means we need some science, bitches! BUSTED.

My views haven’t changed much since crossing the Rubicon. Those who know me might not be surprised at that. Agencies don’t understand the client’s business well enough. They don’t take the time to understand the business and reality of the clients’ problems before leaping to creative solutions. And vice versa. Clients don’t often get agencies. Don’t know and don’t care how they work, how hard they work and how they make money. Don’t really want partners, just need suppliers.

I’ve a newfound appreciation of the real challenges facing the agency as it tries to do great strategic and creative work. But I also intuitively, genuinely get what clients want, why they are asking what they asking, why they do what they do and how and why sometimes the agency struggles to meet that. I actually think we’d all do better with a few more clients sitting in agency roles and agency folk doing client jobs.

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