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Advertising Executive

Advertising Executive

Tell me about it
There are many different specialisms within the world of advertising, including account executives (also known as account handlers), who are the link between the agency and the client, preparing pitches or presentations to win new business as well as servicing the needs of existing clients. To do this, they plan, organise and monitor advertising campaigns. Once they have received the brief from a client they discuss with other agency staff what steps to take. Account executives need to be familiar with the client's product, business culture and the competition. Typically, they handle three to four accounts at once.

Advertising creatives generally work in a team with an art director. They might start as a copywriter or graphic designer, eventually going on to be a director. The scope of their work depends on the size of the agency and its clients. They may write slogans for posters and advertisements, text for leaflets and brochures, and scripts or jingles for TV and radio, or produce the relevant artwork.

The account executive and the client would normally decide the campaign’s core message. The copywriter would then find the most effective way of communicating it, receiving a brief from the account management team, giving background information about the client, its products and the target audience. Along with the art director, they consider the brief, rejecting some ideas and developing others.

Other people involved include media executives, who have knowledge and experience of the media and know how to place advertisements to influence the maximum number of potential buyers at the most economic cost to the client.  They buy time on television, cinema or radio, or book space in magazines or newspapers.

Account planners or market researchers are responsible for ensuring that the advertising campaign is targeted at the right market place or audience. They carry out market research into the client's field of activity, assess consumer attitudes and look at the techniques used by competitors for similar work.

Entry level
There are no set qualifications, but advertising is fiercely competitive and most entrants have at least A levels. A degree, foundation degree or HND is often required by large agencies, while smaller agencies also look for relevant work experience. For an account executive, a degree in marketing could be particularly valuable. You could also study on a postgraduate course.

There is no upper age limit for starting in this work, but in practice 80% of advertising agency staff are under 40.

Before embarking on a career in advertising, try taking the free Diagonal Thinking self-assessment test, an online tool designed to aid recruitment into the industry. It tests the hypothesis that the most successful individuals in advertising are both Linear and Lateral thinkers – they think ‘diagonally’.

Making the grade
Most advertising executives train on the job, including shadowing experienced staff. Some agencies offer an induction programme, and larger agencies tend to have structured training programmes with placements in different departments.

Account executives may enrol on a course run by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), or take qualifications with the Communication Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation (CAM).

The Creative Circle and the Design and Art Directors Association offer a range of seminars and workshops for practising creative staff. It is also possible to take qualifications with CAM and the IPA.

Career progression in advertising is based on experience and ability but gaining relevant qualifications is an advantage. Experienced advertising staff often set up small advertising agencies of their own.

Personal qualities
As an account executive, you would need a real flair for business, a smart appearance and a professional manner. You must be an effective team leader and you must be skilled at handling budgets.

As a creative, you would need excellent creative writing or design skills, especially the ability to express a message clearly, briefly and persuasively. You would also have to be commercially aware, with an understanding of your market and the ability to work well under pressure.

Looking ahead
Advertising is a very popular career, and applicants outnumber vacancies by ten to one. There is a tendency for creative and commercial functions to merge, so you would improve your prospects if you can combine imaginative flair with sound business sense. Agencies differ in size and speciality and executives often seek promotion by moving between agencies.  With sufficient experience, you could start your own business.

Alternative suggestions
Other possibilities on the business side include market researcher, marketing manager or public relations officer.

Other possibilities on the creative side might include artist/illustrator, graphic designer, journalist or photographer.

Take-home pay
Earnings differ greatly from one agency to another, with those based in London tending to pay the most. As a graduate recruit, you could expect to earn between £18,000 and £25,000.  With experience you could earn about £50,000 to £80,000, while the most senior posts pay £140,000 plus.

Copywriters work long, irregular and unsocial hours, Monday to Friday, although deadlines and workload can also lead to weekend work. Some agencies have flexible working hours on the understanding that staff will work late when deadlines demand it.

Sources of information
Advertising Association:
Institute of Practitioners in Advertising:
Communication, Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation:
Account Planning Group:
Design and Art Directors Association:
Creative Circle:
Young Creative Network:

Diagonal Thinking Self-assessment Test:




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