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.
Advertising account executives contribute to and develop advertising campaigns. Tasks typically involve:
- meeting and liaising with clients to discuss and identify their advertising requirements;
- working with agency colleagues to devise an advertising campaign that meets the client's brief and budget;
- presenting alongside agency colleagues (particularly the account manager), the campaign ideas and budget to the client;
- working with the account manager to brief media, creative and research staff and assisting with the formulation of marketing strategies;
- liaising with, and acting as the link between, the client and the advertising agency by maintaining regular contact with both,
- ensuring that communication flows effectively;
- negotiating with clients and agency staff about the details of campaigns;
- presenting creative work to clients for approval or modification;
- handling budgets, managing campaign costs and invoicing clients;
- writing client reports;
- monitoring the effectiveness of campaigns;
- undertaking administration tasks;
- arranging and attending meetings;
- making 'pitches', along with other agency staff, to try to win new business for the agency.
- The range of typical starting salaries falls between £19,000 and £24,000.
- More experienced executives and account managers can earn around £30,000 to £40,000, while account directors can earn up to £55,000. Senior account directors can earn up to £65,000.
- Salaries at senior level, such as business director or board director, range from £80,000 to £100,000+.
Salaries at all levels vary based on the size and geographical location of the agency. For example, executives in and around London generally earn more than those employed in regional locations.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Some agencies may offer their staff additional benefits, such as profit-sharing schemes, free gym membership, car allowance or medical insurance.
Working hours are typically from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. However, there is often the expectation to start the day early or stay late in order to meet deadlines. Weekend work is rare.
Although hours may be irregular, paid overtime is rare, but some agencies will offer time in lieu. Career breaks or part-time work are not typical in the industry but opportunities are increasing. Job-sharing and part-time work are sometimes possible and some of the larger agencies offer paid sabbaticals after a qualifying period of service.
What to expect
- Self-employment and freelance work is possible, although this is more common for those who are experienced. With experience and a good reputation, it is possible to establish your own agency, but initial capital and contacts are crucial.
- In the UK, most of the top agencies are based in London with many also having regional offices. Most large cities have an advertising scene, in particular Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.
- Large advertising agencies are increasingly international in scope. Many are part of a larger media and communications group, whose parent company may be based in another European country or in the USA.
- The working environment is generally informal, although smart dress is often the norm. The role can involve socialising with clients.
- The work may be stressful and highly pressurised, for example, when meeting tight deadlines, juggling various clients and projects, or generating ideas when pitching for a new client's business. However, being an advertising account executive can also be very exciting and rewarding.
- Redundancies can be common in the advertising industry, for example, if there is an economic downturn or the business is undergoing a difficult period. Advertising agencies are continually trying to win new business.
- Although advertising account executives are generally office-based, travel within the working day is frequent as they will be expected to visit clients and may attend TV shoots, radio recordings or castings. Absence from home overnight and overseas work or travel is occasionally required.
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 may be possible with enough relevant work experience but graduates are generally preferred.
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 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 IPA has further details about social networking and blogs on its website.
You will need to show evidence of the following:
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
- a proactive attitude, with the ability to use initiative;
- excellent organisational skills;
- the ability to work under pressure and assimilate large quantities of information quickly, while maintaining attention to detail; drive;
- effective teamworking skills;
- influencing and negotiation skills;
- oral and written communication skills;
- commercial awareness;
- a passion for advertising and an understanding of what makes a good advertisement;
- a willingness to learn;
- resilience, to enable you to deal with problems and constructive criticism;
- IT literacy and an awareness of how the industry is developing in light of new communication technologies.
Pre-entry work experience is extremely desirable and an excellent way to gain an understanding of how an agency works. It also enables you to make valuable contacts, which may be useful when you are looking for a permanent role as an account executive.
Experience 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.
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 five to 15 people.
Many of the larger agencies offer a multidisciplinary service to clients, such as marketing in addition to advertising, as many clients will be looking for a full 'communications' package.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
- The Drum
- IPA Jobs
- Marketing Week
- Media Week Jobs
The CIM's online marketing careers resource getin2marketing includes a database of marketing graduate schemes and placements, which includes advertising roles. The CIM also has a list of recruitment agencies specialising in advertising and marketing, which may help you source employment.
Alternatively, many advertising jobseekers find roles through speculative applications. 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. The IPA has a list of agency members listed on its website, including relevant contact details.
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.
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 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.
The Diploma in Marketing Communications, run by the Communication Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Foundation 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 CIM qualification. The CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing and the Professional Diploma in Marketing are popular with advertising account executives and managers.
The Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing is available to those who have already gained a significant level of knowledge and 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 or marketing qualifications, some agencies may offer financial support, provide study leave, or both.
An understanding of digital, social media platforms and mobile marketing is helpful to this role.
A job as an advertising account executive is normally an entry-level role for a graduate. Career progression is usually as follows:
- account manager, managing executives and handling high-profile clients. Most account managers spend at least three or four years at this level before having enough experience to seek promotion;
- account director, taking responsibility for all account staff and clients;
- group account director.
Career progression is firmly linked to gaining relevant experience and achieving success in 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 may also lead to you being headhunted by other advertising agencies.
Moving between agencies and working for several different clients can help you progress more quickly, therefore mobility and flexibility are important.