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Careers in advertising

Watch the video to find out more about careers in advertising.

Being able to sell yourself is as important as the products you’re promoting for a job in advertising.

Watching TV, flicking through Facebook or even just waiting for the bus – it’s estimated that people are exposed to over 400 adverts a day in the UK. They all have to come from somewhere, and those places are advertising agencies, which range from small specialist agencies through to global giants like Saatchi and Saatchi, who are almost as famous as the things they advertise. But whatever their size, most advertising agencies are split into three areas:

  • Client services are the people who deal directly with the companies who have something to sell. Chief executives usually manage the whole agency, and are often responsible for getting new business. They will also oversee accountants, office managers, secretaries and other administrative staff. Account managers deal with individual clients directly, discussing what the client needs and can afford for each campaign. They will also explain the ideas and concepts the creative team have come up with, and get their clients’ input. This means that chief executives and account managers need great communication and negotiation skills, and a solid knowledge of their clients and competitors and where they fit into the marketplace.
  • Creative departments are overseen by creative directors, who are responsible for designing the messages and content for the whole campaign. They will work with different people depending on whether the adverts are print, film or digital, or a mixture. Copywriters come up with powerful and persuasive words for adverts; graphic designers, photographers and web designers create eye-catching images and websites, and directors are needed to make films that will have people reaching for their credit cards rather than the ‘off’ button. Some agencies might employ their own in-house staff, but it’s also common for creative workers to be hired on a freelance basis for specific projects. As well as being extremely imaginative and experts in their own creative field, creative workers also need great communication skills to explain their ideas to the creative director, and be able to work well in a team and under pressure to meet tight deadlines.
  • Media planning departments make sure adverts get to where people can see them. Media planners work out which media – TV, print, digital or mobile – will be most effective, and when and where will be the best time and outlets to run them. Media planners might also work as media buyers, who deal with the advertising and media sales departments at TV stations, websites and publishers, trying to get the best position for their adverts and the most exposure for their money. This means that media planners and media buyers need great communication and negotiation skills, as well as the ability to organise and manage budgets, and also have to do plenty of research into different media outlets and who uses them.

How do I get into advertising?

There are loads of different qualifications you can do to get into advertising. A diploma, HND or apprenticeship will teach you practical skills needed for various areas of the industry, and you can also study degrees in marketing and advertising at various universities. People who want to go into specific creative jobs like graphic design or film will normally have to study a specific subject like art and design or a vocational media studies course. But it’s also worth remembering that other subjects like English, philosophy or business studies will give you the communication and research skills needed for jobs in client services and media planning.

However, if advertising is the art of making people want something, you’ll also have to put plenty of effort and imagination into making employers want you over the thousands of other people looking for jobs. Wannabe creatives can showcase their talents by writing a blog, getting involved in student media or posting homemade films or photographs on YouTube or Flickr to make a portfolio to present to employers. If you’re interested in client services or media planning, getting involved with a university society, working as a student ambassador or helping to organise a fundraising campaign for a charity are all great ways to show that you’ve got the skills you need.

You’ll probably have to do some unpaid work experience at first, but all those people you’re making cups of tea for could be good contacts in the future. Most entry level jobs in advertising are quite lowly paid at around £18,000 per year, but working your way up to creative director could eventually earn you £40,000 a year or more, and chief executives at big agencies can pocket over £100,000 a year.

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