Careers in Advertising

Careers in Advertising

Who does what? Job roles in a nutshell

If the prospect of building brands and understanding what really motivates people to buy one brand rather than another sounds interesting, then a career in communications or advertising could be for you. But are you finding it difficult working out who does what? What the different job roles entail? Then read on...

> Account Management
> Strategic Planning
> Creative
> Media Planning and Buying
> Creative Services & Production
> Project Manager
> User Experience (UX)
> Social Media Strategist
> Web Developer

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Account Management (“Suits”)

This is the traditional route for many into the industry. The account person represents the client to the agency, and the agency to the client. They play a vital role in the development of a communication (or advertising) campaign. They are the only people in the agency who ‘touch” a  job from beginning (client briefing) to end (dispatch). They are also responsible for the relationship with the client and the profitability of the account. They must develop an in-depth understanding of the client's business, their objectives and strategy. They work closely with strategic planners to understand the real issues behind the client brief, and translate their client's business needs into an agency brief. The account person will also liaise with the creatives, production and media teams to deliver the communications project.  An account person's modification to Homo sapiens would be additional arms to juggle all of the tasks that get thrown their way. The career progression is from account executive, account manager, account director, group account director to head of account management.

The best account people are:

  • curious, creative thinkers.
  • have an interest in advertising, business and communications
  • flourish when working within a team
  •  organised, with strong attention to detail and time management skills
  • effective communicators, both verbally and in writing
  • flexible, and able to solve problems
  • capable of building good working relationships with client and agency contacts

Strategic Planning

Strategic planners represent the consumer in the agency. Their deep knowledge of the consumer, the market and branding informs their business and strategic advice for the client. Their aim is to ensure a consistent and effective brand message. They are responsible for developing the key insight which lies behind the communication/ advertising idea. They need to get under the skin of the consumer, usually through analysis of the research, including segmentation, qualitative and quantitative research. They are responsible for developing the briefs within the agency, inspiring the creatives, recognising and nurturing an idea and ensuring it is executed optimally.

Brand planners are usually disciplined, highly autonomous, and often very academic.


The creative department of an agency is where the main ideas that answer the brief are generated.  Creatives work in pairs — a copywriter and an art director.  They take the creative brief from the planner and work with it to invent ideas that address the brand's business problems.  Once approved, they work with the production department in order to turn those ideas into a reality. To get a job as a creative, you need to be very imaginative and be able to think round corners. When looking for a job, the most important thing is your 'book'  - a portfolio of all your ads to showcase your talent.

Media Planning and Buying

Media Planners map how to connect consumers to the creative idea.  Planners in a media agency will take a brief from the client which highlights the message to be communicated to the consumer.  They will choose which medium is optimal and how the media should be flighted.  The media buyers are responsible for negotiating the relevant channels with the media owners in order to get the best position, timing and price for their client's media space and therefore realise the maximum value and impact from the budget available.

Creative Services & Production

It is the job of creative services and production to ensure that the internal process is smooth and the content/ advertising are made to the highest quality, on time, and within budget. The people in this process need a variety of skills and can be split into three main areas — those who control the internal process within an agency, those who source the outside talent for production and those who oversee the production itself, including Creative Services Director, Creative Services Manager, Art Buying, TV Production, Studio Project Management, Traffic Management and Print Production.

Project Manager

Project Managers oversee all aspects of a campaign from start to finish and focus on four essential things: Finance, Timing and Processes and Quality.  It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to agree, track and reconcile all financial aspects of their role and work closely with internal and external stakeholders to achieve financial and logistical targets. They  proactively control the schedule of a campaign to ensure that all necessary components are executed on time. Lack of time efficiencies can cost money and results in a process that actually slows the agency down. Project managers are in charge of ensuring the overall quality of a campaign by facilitating workflows, mediating relationships, and ensuring that a campaign is consistent with a client’s needs. By always staying one step ahead, Project Managers are able not only to see the aim of a project, but how to achieve it efficiently.

If you are a strategic thinker with strong organisational skills and want to have a direct hand in giving a campaign its focus and direction, project management might be the right role for you.

User Experience (UX)

While creative teams come up with the concept for a digital campaign and engineers make these ideas come to life, User Experience Architects work to make sure that consumer needs are addressed. This means “being the voice of the customer,” and creating digital experiences that are effective both in engaging users and delivering a client’s message.  However, in order to effectively engage users, User Experience Architects need to have a solid understanding of how people behave. Therefore, one of the most characteristics is empathy -  an ability to understand how and why people see things differently from one another. This is important because the customers using a digital service often come from wide and varied backgrounds. In addition to this empathetic nature, it is also important to understand what different devices give you in terms of interactivity, and how they can be used to make a better  experience for the people who use it.

Social Media Strategist

They have to understand how consumers interact with social platforms. It is essential that they understand how new technologies shape the user experience online. They craft ideas which are social by design and engage with the online consumers.

Web Developer

They are responsible for technically implementing digital ideas by working with creatives and UX. They take ownership of the entire build phase of creating websites.

Would you like to improve your skills?

View courses in advertising or visit career pathways to find out what is right for you