The 6 Unexpected Benefits of Working In Advertising or Marketing at a Small Agency

Lindsay Keaton

If you’re anything like me, or most of my friends, you picture your “dream job” working in advertising to be in a large, flashy, important, and well-known company- right?

Well, most people usually don’t end up in the “dream job” they pictured. On top of that, most people’s real “dream job” will be a huge surprise.

Just like the majority, my idea of a “dream job” was completely off. Luckily enough, I somehow fumbled my way into the perfect place for me; a full-service boutique marketing agency in St. Louis, Missouri. We have about 10 employees but are rapidly expanding.

Here’s a few unexpected benefits I have found (thus far) working at a small advertising agency.

1. More mature opportunities

I was thrown into roles that carried a lot of weight. They were more important and crucial to the company and its success than any entry-level employee would typically have the opportunity to participate in while working in advertising.

For example, I was put in charge of our Summer Intern program, including everything from posting the openings, sifting through the resumes and cover letters, interviewing, vetting the options, extending offers, coordinating hours, and being their lead manager. That’s insane. I was desperately sending out resumes myself just six months ago. How did I get to be on the other side of the desk so quickly? Well, it’s because I was at a small company that didn’t treat me like an entry-level employee, but instead, a crucial team member.

2. Wear “more hats”

When you work in advertising or marketing at a big company, imagine you’re a member of a football team. There are 40+ other players and everyone has a defined role. You’re the kicker—When it’s time to kick the ball, they call you in, you do your best, and you’re out again until the next time the team needs to kick.

At a small company, we’re more like a beach volleyball team. You may start the game at your “place” on the court, but as the game goes on, you’re moving to every inch of the court. Wherever your team needs you and wherever the ball goes, you’re ready to dive in the sand, hustle back and forth, and pick up slack.

I applied to my company as a Public Relations Assistant. In larger companies, my roles would be finite, limited solely to the PR department and its previously outlined job descriptions.

But luckily, I was at a small company. In my first few weeks I got to accompany the head of our Advertising department to assist with a TV commercial shoot, then go to the studios to edit. I also got to try my hand in graphic design, event planning, branding, social media, community outreach, and more. The exposure to so many different roles has undoubtedly made me a well-rounded, well-equipped-for-absolutely-anything professional.

A Day in the Life of an Ad Agency Project Manager

3. Specific company culture

In a small company, you have the unique opportunity to foster a very specific, magical company culture. Each person plays such a large role and has such a prominent presence in the company. When you have diverse yet like-minded people working together, you learn from each other and enjoy each other’s company beyond being co-workers. You get to be friends with your peers and love coming to work.


4. Trust

During college, I sat in lecture halls of 200-300 people. The amount of times my professor probably heard “sorry I had to miss class today, I was sick,” is guaranteed to be absurd. That is because in a setting that large, the professor has no way to get to know each individual student and gauge their character or trustworthiness. This is how I went into any professional situation—in fear that they wouldn’t believe me and would lose respect for me.

Sure enough, after a few months of being punctual every day, disaster struck–my car battery wouldn’t start. I frantically knocked on my neighbors’ doors asking if they had jumper cables, meanwhile calling my boyfriend for car advice and texting my boss to update him on my situation. I panicked and instantly felt guilty, like he would think I slept in and made it all up. The instant my boss was on the phone, I was calm.

He assured me that it was by no means the end of the world and I should just get to work safely when I could. Wait…. Really?  Maybe I just have a great boss, but I’m willing to bank on the fact that a big part of it has to do with the fact my boss gets the chance to know and understand my work ethic as an employee, so he takes my word at face value and never bats an eye.

To be trusted by your boss is a fantastic feeling and I hope everyone reading this gets to experience that.

5. Personal mentoring

On the same note, being at a small company gives you personal, professional attention and mentoring that is rare in a large company. Each employee gets to know each other and learn from one another on a much deeper level. My boss is extremely involved in my work and decisions. He is always available to give me tips, have regular “check-ins” to see how I’m doing and touch base.

Oh, and by the way, he has been the CMO of multiple Fortune 500 companies, so he’s a fantastic mentor. I encourage everyone else—whether you’re in a big company, small company, or no company at all, maybe even your OWN company— but find these mentors in your life and stay in tune with each other. It makes an incredible difference.

6. Room to be creative

Working at a small company gives you more freedom to get creative in your own right. When I started getting bored with my day-to-day activities, I decided to take things into my own hands. I had always been interested in celebrities and their effect on a brand. A simple tweet mentioning the brand could go viral and translate into thousand of dollars for the company.

One of my clients is a well-known local pizza chain. I decided to attempt some celebrity outreach and contact A-List St. Louis natives to send them gift baskets containing our products. I tracked down their publicists with surprising success and coordinated deliveries. This resulted in major celebrities not only receiving our products and my hand-written notes (very cool) but also tweeted and posted Instagram photos to give my client a shout out…. All because I had the space to get creative and try something completely out of the box.

When considering your next move or your first position, don’t overlook the benefits of a small ad or marketing agency. The hands-on and diverse work experience can be more valuable than just sitting in big, fancy meetings at a huge firm.

Lindsay Keaton has a Bachelors degree from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She is the Vice President of Public Relations and Social Media at a full-service, boutique marketing agency in St. Louis. She loves travelling, fitness and fashion.