Is An Agency Being Honest With Itself?

A buddy of mine recently emailed me with a topic he thought would be good for the blog. It's something to consider when you're interviewing with agencies: How much of the agency's work is good work?

Every agency, even the ones that are all over the award show annuals, have that work that they kind of sweep under the carpet. It's not the work that makes the annuals. It's not the work they put on their website or show when they give talks at schools. But it is work that pays the bills. For most agencies, that's the bulk of the work.

So the thing to figure out when you're looking at an agency is:
1) What is the ratio of good work (i.e. the work they feature) to other work? Sometimes you can get an idea of this just by looking at the client roster.
2) Who gets to work on the good stuff? Are there a few privileged teams, or is it spread around? Even if the good assignments are agency-wide gang bangs with 12 other teams working on them, at least you'll get a shot.

The buddy who emailed me has an interesting way of looking at it as well:
"What portion of an agency's work would get someone hired at that agency? It's kind of a talk/walk ratio. I'd say that if 20% of an agency's work is good enough to get the writer/AD hired there, that's pretty good. Or at least, a pretty honest agency."

That's a great point. Most agencies know what great work is. They want to hire people with great portfolios. But can you build a great portfolio working at that agency? That should always be your biggest priority.