Overview of the UK's marketing, advertising and PR sector

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
October, 2016

Technology continues to play a dominant and increasingly complex role in the sector - with the growing influence of mobile, video and even virtual reality on campaigns

What areas can I work in?

Elements of marketing, advertising and PR exist in most businesses and across all sectors. Employees help clients to connect with their audiences, promoting brands, products and messages using a range of techniques. Marketing is the overall process, while advertising and PR are both individual sub-components.

Creative Skillset has revealed that 153,000 people work in the marketing and advertising industry, with graduates making up more than 70% of the workforce. The majority of these opportunities are in the overarching area of marketing, with jobs also available in advertising, PR and event management.

You could choose to work in:

  • account management and customer support;
  • advertising;
  • affiliate marketing;
  • brand management;
  • campaign metrics and research;
  • communications and public relations (PR);
  • community involvement;
  • content marketing;
  • copywriting;
  • database management and analysis;
  • direct marketing;
  • display advertising;
  • distribution;
  • email marketing;
  • event management;
  • market research;
  • media planning;
  • mobile marketing;
  • product pricing;
  • public affairs;
  • sales promotion;
  • sales strategy;
  • search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC);
  • search engine optimisation (SEO);
  • social media;
  • web design and development.

The industry is broadly divided into those who work in-house for an organisation and those who work for an agency. The latter are appointed to provide specific services to paying clients.

Those working in advertising will almost always work for agencies, while those working in PR are often employed by larger organisations.

In terms of geography, Creative Skillset places around half of the sector's workforce in London, although the South East and North West are well-represented as regional creative hubs - the latter boasts MediaCityUK in Salford, home of the BBC and many specialist agencies.

For examples of jobs in this sector, see graduate jobs in marketing, advertising and PR.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Many employers, from retailers to pharmaceutical firms, offer graduate-level opportunities in marketing. Other organisations, including charities, may have vacancies that aren't specifically targeted at graduates.

Companies that are currently running marketing-related graduate schemes include:

  • Centrica;
  • Diageo;
  • EE;
  • GSK (GlaxoSmithKline);
  • L'Oréal;
  • Morrisons;
  • Nestlé;
  • P&G (Procter & Gamble);
  • Sky;
  • Unilever;
  • WPP.

Well-known digital marketing and advertising agencies include:

  • adam&eveDDB;
  • BD Network;
  • Leo Burnett;
  • Mother;
  • Saatchi & Saatchi;
  • VCCP;
  • WCRS;
  • We Are Social.

Notable PR consultancies include:

  • Bell Pottinger;
  • Brunswick Group;
  • Cohn & Wolfe;
  • Edelman;
  • Finsbury;
  • FleishmanHillard Fishburn;
  • Freuds;
  • FTI Consulting;
  • Grayling;
  • Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K);
  • LEWIS;
  • Weber Shandwick.

Global names in market research include:

  • B2B International;
  • GfK;
  • Ipsos MORI;
  • Kantar Millward Brown;
  • Mintel;
  • TNS.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates looking to work in marketing, advertising and PR can expect:

  • to work primarily in an office, with some travel to visit clients and attend events;
  • to be part of a young, dynamic and sociable team, working in a fast-moving and creative industry that can sometimes become highly stressful and pressurised;
  • salaries to vary greatly depending on the role, region and type of organisation;
  • working hours to be between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with longer hours sometimes required;
  • freelance work to be an option, particularly in PR, exhibitions and copywriting.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues?

This is a dynamic sector that's constantly responding to changing consumer habits. As technology becomes more sophisticated, companies are investing in new ways (for instance, video and virtual reality) to better understand and communicate with their clients.

Offline marketing methods such as radio and print advertising are still often used alongside digital technology. However, with an increased number of channels available, modern developments such as social media and mobile devices allow for cheaper and more effective means of delivering brand and product messages to audiences.

Despite this wider array of platforms and applications, an integrated strategic approach to digital marketing has meant that many departments and disciplines now work together for a more seamless and holistic customer experience.

Companies advertising across multiple media will therefore typically expect new entrants to already have an understanding of the different techniques, while demonstrating an aptitude for creativity and innovation. Journalistic skills are also highly regarded, while the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) says that there's an emerging desire to integrate marketing with PR.

Analytics has never been more important in this industry. The popularity of social media has created a huge dataset that marketers can utilise to improve analysis of consumer behaviour. Databases are used to better understand segments of the market and move towards direct marketing, helping to build long-term customer relationships. Graduates with numerical and analytical skills who are able to exploit databases are in high demand.

With online interactions relevant to organisations in every sector, reputation management has become a vital aspect of PR; PR executives may be responsible for managing how a company's brand image is portrayed, in addition to helping shape its communication strategies.

What does the digital skills gap mean for the UK?

Digital skills refer to digital literacy and the ability to confidently use the internet and information technologies. In this modern age, it would seem unthinkable that the UK would fall short in this increasingly crucial area that impacts upon all of society.

However, while there's clearly a need to recruit an array of digital marketing, advertising and PR professionals, the government-commissioned Digital Skills for the UK Economy report has served to highlight the nation's skills shortage. It warned that the digital and creative sector workforce needs to keep pace with advancements - especially with digital technology employment predicted to increase by 6% by 2020. Getting a graduate job in the sector will therefore require the right mix of training and experience.

The Digital Marketing Institute's Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland report has revealed that the UK is not alone in its struggle to locate the individuals with digital skills in all sectors, leading to a 'global digital talent crisis'. More than half (59%) of the marketers questioned felt that they had a need to improve their digital marketing skills for career progression, with email marketing and display advertising found to be the UK's weakest areas. See marketing courses to discover ways to get your own skills up to scratch with a recognised qualification.