Advertising account executive

Job description

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Advertising account executives work within advertising or multi-service agencies, acting as a link between clients and the agency. They are responsible for the coordination of advertising campaigns and therefore communicating clearly to all those involved.

They must understand their clients' needs and objectives and liaise closely with them throughout campaigns, often on a daily basis. They manage administrative and campaign work and ensure that advertising projects are completed on time and on budget.

The role can involve handling multiple accounts and the hours can be long in a competitive environment. Advertising account executives usually report to an account manager.

Typical work activities

Advertising account executives contribute to and develop advertising campaigns. Tasks typically involve:

Salary and conditions

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Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

Entry requirements

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Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances, especially as advertising is an increasingly competitive sector to enter:

A degree or HND is usually required, especially in large agencies. Entry without a degree or HND but with a proven track record of relevant work experience may be considered, more typically in smaller or specialist agencies. However, graduates are often preferred, so candidates without a degree may have to consider starting at a more junior level.

Pre-entry work experience is extremely desirable and an excellent way to gain an understanding of how an agency works. Work experience also enables you to make some valuable contacts to use when you are looking for a permanent role as an account executive. It can be undertaken via vacation work, placements or job shadowing. Some larger agencies offer formal work experience/internship programmes, often in the form of summer schools. More details on work experience can be found at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) .

As advertising is so competitive, work experience may sometimes prove difficult to get, but any other work experience in a commercial context may be helpful. Undertaking a period of voluntary work is also an alternative way of gaining valuable experience.

Potential candidates need to show evidence of the following:

Larger agencies, which have graduate training schemes, invite applications through their websites. These are usually made early in the autumn term of your final year. Smaller and specialist agencies recruit as vacancies arise, often using specialised websites or recruitment consultancies.

A speculative, targeted application using a focused, attention-grabbing CV and covering letter can also be an effective approach. Try to learn as much as possible about advertising, the role of account executives and about the organisation you wish to work for, and then apply directly.

It is helpful to read job adverts in the trade press and request vacancy details to help you get a feel for the combination of skills and industry knowledge that an advertising account executive needs. Consider related posts, e.g. in sales, marketing or public relations, for work experience, as employers often find the skills and experience gained in related roles transferable to advertising.

Networking may also be beneficial in helping you to secure a marketing position. Your university careers service may host events giving you the opportunity to gain contacts and meet industry representatives.

Social networking sites offer an increasingly effective way to network with advertising professionals. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)  has further details about social networking and blogs on its website.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.


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Training for advertising account executives varies depending on the agency but the majority of training is carried out on the job. Some of the larger agencies may have structured training schemes in place.

Agencies may require new account executives to undertake external training, such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)  Foundation Certificate. This is an online course for junior advertising professionals and covers the entire brand communications process. The IPA also offers a range of short courses and seminars for experienced staff. Communication Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation  runs the Diploma in Marketing Communications, which includes an advertising module that can be studied part time, intensively or via distance learning.

Some agencies may encourage account executives to study towards a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)  qualification. The CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing and the Professional Diploma in Marketing are popular with advertising account executives/managers. The Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing is available to those who have already gained a significant level of knowledge and/or experience of marketing. The CIM qualifications usually take one year to complete and studying towards them requires CIM membership. However, associated membership benefits include attending marketing workshops and seminars free of charge or at a reduced fee.

When studying towards formal advertising/marketing qualifications, some agencies may offer financial support, provide study leave, or both.

Career development

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A job as an advertising account executive is normally an entry-level role for a graduate. Career progression is usually as follows:

Most candidates spend several years in each role before gaining promotion.

Career progression is firmly linked to gaining relevant experience and key transferable skills. One way of achieving this is by moving between agencies and working for several different clients. Therefore, mobility and flexibility are important.

Career development very much depends on the success of your campaigns. Working on an award-winning campaign, for example, will give you a higher profile and industry recognition, and will make your career progression much more rapid. It will also mean that you may be headhunted by other advertising agencies.

Employers and vacancy sources

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The majority of opportunities occur in the larger advertising agencies. Many of the larger agencies are part of an international advertising/media group, possibly with several branches throughout the UK, although they may work as autonomous companies.

Typically, a larger employer will have between 50 and 80 employees, although some agencies have more than 300. Smaller companies can range in size from 5 to 15 people.

A growing trend amongst larger agencies is to offer a multidisciplinary service to clients, such as marketing in addition to advertising, as many clients will be looking for a full 'communications' package. This trend is mainly apparent amongst agencies in London but is also evident in agencies elsewhere in the UK.

Sources of vacancies

The Chartered Institute of Marketing's (CIM) online marketing careers resource getin2marketing  includes a database of marketing graduate schemes and placements, which includes advertising roles. The CIM resource also has a list of recruitment agencies specialising in advertising and marketing that may help you source employment.

Alternatively, many advertising jobseekers find jobs through speculative applications to agencies. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)  has a list of agency members listed on its website, including relevant contact details.

Get tips on job hunting, CVs and cover letters and interviews.

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Written by AGCAS editors
October 2013
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