Then the advertising industry could be for you. Working in advertising involves the process of developing strategies, (e.g. where to place an ad), market research (e.g. who the ad is most likely to appeal to), and producing the creative idea (e.g. copywriting or design). Advertising uses a range of media including direct mail, billboards, television, film, radio, and of course social media.

Professionals are often employed in ‘agencies’. These agencies can either be specialist, e.g. media buying or digital/online, or full-service agencies. The rise of digital media has created many more opportunities to communicate with audiences and so agency services have expanded to include everything from blogger outreach programmes to pay-per-click adverts, social media activity and branded digital content. The work often includes:

  • creating and managing integrated advertising campaigns and client-supplier liaison
  • planning, research and evaluation
  • new business development
  • digital roles – creative, design and production

Advertising is not only concerned with persuading people to buy goods or services, but also encompasses other aspects of the communications sector such as PR, market research, brand consultancy and marketing. You could, for example, work on campaigns that help raise money for charity, or generate awareness of government campaigns such as Covid-19 ‘Every Mind Matters’ regarding advice for looking after mental wellbeing.

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The most popular roles in the industry are listed below along with the type of work involved. Each agency may refer to these roles with slightly different job titles and in many cases a role may combine two or more areas, particularly if the agency is smaller:

Account manager

(Also known as Client Services / Account Executive).

  • Responding to client requests.
  • Providing administrative support to the rest of the team.
  • Organising and attending client briefings and presentations of campaigns for approval.
  • Briefing colleagues and helping them plan and execute work for clients.
  • Manage projects and ensure deadlines are met and budgets kept to.

Strategic planning (account planner)

  • Working with clients to understand their business objectives, target markets and consumers.
  • Analysing data, trends and reports relevant to the client’s business.
  • Commissioning, conducting and analysing qualitative (e.g. focus groups) and quantitative (e.g. surveys) research.
  • Advising on possible approaches or adaptation of approach to the target market.
  • Finding an ‘angle’ on a specific product or service on which to base an advertising campaign.
  • Presenting conclusions and ideas to clients and other agency staff.
  • Analysing and interpreting customer response and sales data to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign.

Media planning and media buyer

  • Negotiating with media owners to get best rates and spaces across media platforms such as TV, radio, digital, press, billboards and even promotion on the sides of buses and taxis.
  • Working closely with planning teams to ensure the planning and buying process runs smoothly.
  • Keeping up to date with new developments in the industry, latest research and competitor activity.
  • Creating media plans which outline the media channels to be used.
  • Presenting media plans to the client and keeping them informed of campaign progress.
  • Preparing costing and spending reports for clients and managing budgets.
  • Researching and analysing data to understand client’s target audience.
  • Analysing campaign effectiveness.


  • Writing clear, persuasive, original copy.
  • Proofreading copy to check spelling and grammar.
  • Amending, revising or redeveloping adverts or campaigns in response to feedback from the creative director, account team or clients.
  • Overseeing campaigns through the production stage to completion.
  • Casting actors for TV and radio work, listening to voice tapes, liaising with production companies, photographers, typographers, designers and printers.
  • Keeping up to date with popular culture and trends.

Art director

  • Working with colleagues in a creative team to devise an idea which will engage the target audience, while also meet the client’s brief for their business problem.
  • Presenting initial ideas to the creative director for approval, and development into final concept.
  • Creating visual mock-up of concept.
  • Responding to client’s feedback.
  • Managing and commissioning artworkers, photographers, illustrators, film-makers and designers to make the concept a reality.

Insight executive

  • Analysing data and applying it to solve a business objective or problem that a client faces.
  • Producing cross-sector information on anything from markets and brands to trends, developments and recent innovations.
  • Ability to think laterally if information is not readily available and needs to be found in a short time.
  • Coming up with new ideas or solutions when there isn’t necessarily any given information readily available.
  • Presenting ideas in a compelling way over multiple formats, such as email, PowerPoint and face-to-face presentations.
  • Learning about people and why they do what they do and being able to explain this to clients.

Many advertising agencies run training schemes for graduates and while competition for places is fierce, they are a great route into the industry.

Check agency websites from September to find (new) graduate schemes and check their deadlines, which will often fall early in Michaelmas Term. A great place to start is the AdMission careers website run by the IPA (The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising). 

Many of the agencies that used to have graduate programmes now offer internships, academies and apprenticeships as their pipeline.

Check full details for yourself on company websites, but some of the leading firms and schemes include:

Some people get their first account planning job straight out of university, while others move across from another agency role, such as account management, or a different field entirely, such as market research or journalism.

Getting a job in the creative department is less straightforward. The main way of entering the profession is to take your ‘book’ or 'portfolio' of work to art directors and senior copywriters to gain work experience. So networking and speculative approaches are crucial: more on this is included below and in our information about Speculative Approaches and Creative CVs. In many instances people looking to work in more practically creative roles tend to have an art or design background, although this is not essential.

Career progression within advertising is highly dependent on your skills and ability. The industry works on the basis of meritocracy and it is not uncommon for individuals to be at Board level at the age of thirty!

Even if an agency isn’t looking for someone new, it is still worth sending in a speculative application. Vacancies may arise in the future or internships may be available.

Skills needed

The skills required in advertising are as varied as the industry itself. The advertising industry needs people who are interested in consumer markets and fascinated by advertising and the media. Agencies look for individuals who can relate to their clients and help them achieve their business objectives. Certain skills are broadly common to all advertising work but some will depend on the role in question:

  • Ability to link a creative solution to a business problem.
  • Understanding and love of brands.
  • Ability to work under pressure as part of a team.
  • Ability to communicate articulately with people at all levels.
  • A rigorous and creative approach to problem solving.
  • Strong lateral and logical thinking skills.
  • An open and enquiring mind.
  • Entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Persuasive and diplomatic.
  • Well-organised with an eye for detail.
  • Digital media insight.
  • Creative design skills/qualifications (for creative roles)

As an Account Manager, you need to thrive on deadlines and pressure. This role (similar to a Business Consultant) is responsible for co-ordinating the resources of the agency to meet the needs of the client and requires excellent interpersonal skills. The ability to persuade and convince are vital when you are making a pitch to a new client. In Account Planning and Media Planning, analysis and research skills are central; whilst Media Buyers – those who purchase air time on television or space online – must be quick thinkers, organised and strong negotiators. Art Directors have usually come from an art school background. For Copywriting, the craft of writing is still important, especially now in the development of websites, virals, Twitter and other online media. A copywriter needs to be able to produce a clear, persuasive and original copy.

Getting experience

Employers will want evidence of your interest, and work experience is central to this. It is also an effective way of finding out whether the advertising sector is right for you. A number of agencies do offer work experience programmes throughout the year, or summer internships. A list is provided on the AdMission website. 

Search CareerConnect for current and archived opportunities. If you are not able to secure a competitive work experience position, consider speculative applications, perhaps  for work shadowing or informal work experience. This is a very common route in!  If you search the archived vacancies on CareerConnect you should find over 200 opportunities advertised for this sector: a great start for sending speculative approaches.

Use the IPA’s agency directory to draw up a list of companies you’d be interested to work for. The listing includes client details, size and focus of the agencies, awards and names of people in the leadership team. Go deeper by taking a look at each firm’s website, their careers pages and seek out an email address, perhaps listed under ‘Contact Us’, ‘About Us’ or ‘Jobs’.

Alternatively, do some online research via LinkedIn or advertising awards websites such as UK Agency Awards or the D&AD awards (global). You can find firms recognised for their work and look for people to contact directly: eg, the relevant head of department, for example the head of planning or executive creative director. You can also contact the head of human resources.

Will I get paid?

Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.

If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses, but they aren’t obliged to do so.

Alongside CareerConnect, the job section of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) website. You’ll find agency roles across all the different disciplines from client services to planning and creative, as well as the occasional client-side role. You can sign up for email updates when new vacancies are uploaded.

Additionally, you can search for jobs in The Guardian’s Marketing & PR or Media sections and on Brand Republic, the online portal for industry titles such as Campaign, Marketing and Mediaweek.

A number of the large ‘full-service’ advertising agencies such as Wunderman Thompson and WPP have well-organised recruitment programmes, details of which are listed in the Entry Points section on this page. Many of the larger agencies open for applications in September, but a few run even earlier. Early in your research, check closing dates for applications – these typically fall in early November with first stage interviews being held in December, but some close in (early) October whilst others into the New Year. This makes it possible to spread applications, but don’t miss opportunities by not looking early enough.

People often try to catch the eye of senior advertising staff with unconventional and/or creative CVs. Demonstrating creative prowess with a CV can be effective IF you successfully tailor your message to the company in question. Beware of gimmicks, however. It’s no good spending hours on an infographic CV if the idea is completely irrelevant to the agency or job you’re applying for. A highly targeted application is more likely to impress. For further help on putting together a visual or infographic CV, and read our information on Creative CVs.

It is vital to build your online presence if you are considering a career in advertising (or communications of any kind). If a company is interested in you, they may well Google you. Make sure they like what they find. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and accurately reflects your CV. Tighten your security settings on Facebook and make sure there’s nothing on any other social media platforms that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. The Careers Service often delivers skills sessions on LinkedIn and Social Media, so visit CareerConnect for more information on upcoming sessions.

If you are going to be successful and enter the advertising industry you must be able to demonstrate that you really understand what the work involves. You could do this by:

  • Regularly reading Campaign, the weekly industry journal. We subscribe to this, or you can view it online at Brand Republic. There are also several useful books (listed below) that you can read.
  • Making sure you can comment on recent campaigns. It does not matter whether you like the advertisement or not, or whether you buy the product. What matters is that you should be able to prove that you have thought critically and intelligently about the campaign. You could even write a blog to review recent campaigns, try using WordPress or Tumblr to get you started.
  • Seeking paid or unpaid work experience, temporary opportunities or a couple of days shadowing someone in an agency for a few days. Careers Advisers can help you with putting together a CV to attach to speculative applications.
  • Making sure your application is tailored to each agency. If you can show you have some insight about what makes them different – or what accounts they have – they are likely to be impressed. Don’t be ‘wacky’ unless you are sure you can carry it off. Using the website Brand Republic will help you to find out lots of information about companies, their brands and media spend. This is useful for applications and for interviews too.
  • Making use of forums and blogs. You will be expected to have a good understanding of different social networks and media, so finding advertising blogs is a great way to do some research.
  • You may need to consider alternative ways of entering the industry. For example, a communications job in the marketing department of a consumer goods company (such as Dyson, Tesco or Unilever) is quite a common route into advertising. Working in Sales Promotion or Direct Marketing companies, where the competition is often not as high, could offer good initial experience.
  • LinkedIn Jobs


  • AdMission – run by the IPA, a professional body representing more than 300 advertising, media and marketing communications agencies across the UK. This website is useful to help you decide what sort of advertising role is right for you. You’ll also find interviews with people working in different types of agencies and different disciplines – from account management to creatives, planners and project managers. There’s also advice on how to get a job in advertising from people who make the hiring decisions in agencies.
  • Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.
  • Brand Republic – excellent resource to get an insight into career profiles, potential employers in the communication sector, campaigns and media spend.
  • The Advertising Association.
  • The Institute of Digital and Direct Marketing.
  • Design and Art Direction – useful for those interested in copywriting and creative work.
  • AdForum – resources for the worldwide advertising community, list of agencies.
  • Media Circle – for interest in media planning/buying, company profiles and FAQs.
  • Account Planning Group – for information on courses, awards and networking.
  • Adage – useful information resource for advertising and marketing news.

Key Resource



Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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