The Advertising Association defines advertising as “identifiable paid for communications in the media, which aim to persuade, inform or sell”. Advertising agencies create campaigns for their clients who, in addition to commercial organisations, include the public sector, charities and interest groups.

Full service advertising agencies work with clients to identify the target market, the message to be communicated, the most effective way to communicate it, where it should be presented, and how its effectiveness should be measured.

Target audiences for advertising can vary widely but an important distinction is whether it is aimed at businesses (B2B), or consumers (B2C).

Display advertising such as the adverts you see on TV, at the cinema, in print media, on the internet and also the adverts you hear on the radio, forms the core of advertising. Display advertising is often supported (or sometimes replaced by) classified adverts, direct mail, sales promotions and/or exhibitions.

Around 25,000 people are employed in the industry which is worth around £5bn to the UK economy, 75% of whom are based in London. Many agencies are small, often working within a limited geographic area and/or offering specialised services.

Consolidation is a feature of the sector as companies seek to improve their market share and global presence. This is often evident in the length of company names and the number of agencies actually owned by large communications companies, e.g. Publicis, WPP and Omnicom.

Another contributing factor to the dynamism of the sector is the digital revolution and the huge growth in the forms of media communication. LSE research has shown that the UK’s advanced use of technology has led to an increase in employment prospects for those working in advertising, marketing, media and PR.

Competition for jobs is fierce and according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) about 600-700 graduates are recruited in the UK each year by IPA member agencies.

Useful Information

Routes in

Are you suited to working in advertising? Do you think diagonally? Take the IPA Diagonal Thinking Self-Assessment test to find out. 

Finding work experience

Start with the IPA website for internships and use the agency list to apply directly. 

Make use of business/social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to make contact with industry professionals, follow companies that interest you and carry out labour market research.


You should be proactive and approach firms with a speculative application but it will need to be targeted towards their work and include an attention-grabbing CV and cover letter.

You will need to provide evidence that you are a team player, have strong analytical and problem solving skills, are able to communicate ideas effectively and above all, have a passion and enthusiasm for advertising and brands. 

Account planners need to be able to show that they have good quantitative analytical skills.

If you want to work on the creative side then you should be developing a portfolio of ideas which illustrate your creative flair and commercial awareness.

Graduate training schemes in advertising


Applications for larger agencies usually open in September, with deadlines in November for jobs starting the following September, but this can vary. Check with your target agencies regularly for application deadlines. Larger agencies may recruit into graduate programmes, smaller agencies usually advertise vacancies as and when they arise.

Finding graduate schemes

Try job searching on the following sites:

Also make use of social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to make contact with industry professionals and to carry out basic labour market research.


You should be proactive and approach smaller agencies (and larger agencies, if you are looking for work experience) with a speculative application but it will need to be targeted towards their work and include an attention-grabbing CV and cover letter.

Whilst there is scope for creativity and individuality when making formal or speculative applications to agencies, like all recruiters, they want to see evidence of your education, experience, achievements, relevant competencies and interest in the work they do. Ensure the format you use doesn’t overshadow the content.

It is not necessary to have a degree in a related subject but it helps to have some experience in the sector – it is a competitive area to break so this can make all the difference on your application. This may be in an agency (some offer internships or work experience) but could also be gained from promoting events for school and student societies, winning sponsorship for something, or working with customers in another type of commercial organisation.


The typical selection process for the larger advertising agencies includes an online application form, usually accompanied by a CV. You may also be asked to write one or more short pieces on for example a favourite brand, an ad you love/hate, a campaign idea for a client of your or their choice.

Selection is usually by a series of interviews and possibly an assessment centre.

Job roles

There are a variety of different roles available in advertising; the main ones are listed below. It is also possible to work in finance, HR, IT and other support roles within an advertising agency. Larger advertising agencies run graduate programmes in all, or some, of these areas, although most jobs and work experience is in account management.

New entrants are usually called executives within their functional area and work on a range of projects supporting managers. Promotion is usually to manager after three years or so, then to director, and then to group director.

Salaries for senior managers can be £90k and above. It is not unusual for people to move between agencies as a means of widening their experience and gaining promotion.

More information on roles within the Advertising sector is available on Prospects.

Account executive

Works with clients, researching into their market, their services and potential customers. They devise advertising plans for clients and once approved by the client will work with colleagues to plan and start on an advertising campaign. They ensure campaigns run on time and to budget.

Account manager

In addition to the work of an account executive an account manager liaises with potential new clients to create new business for the agency, monitor and evaluate each project and manage a team of account executives.

Account planner

Sets the communication strategy for clients. Works to understand their client’s business to set project aims and objectives and analyse existing information within their client’s market. This information is used to brief agency colleagues who develop advertising plans which the account planner presents to the client. Throughout the advertising campaign they assess its effectiveness making changes where necessary, finally evaluating its overall success.

Art director

Having been briefed by colleagues an art director will produce the creative and artistic part of the advertising project. Produces storyboards or sketches, contacts film crews, artists and designers to carry out ideas, chooses locations and oversees shoots and the final edit of films or television adverts.


Produces the text/words to accompany an advertising campaign. Having been briefed on the company and project, copywriters work with the creative teams brainstorming ideas and presenting them to clients, adjusting them if necessary, finally ensuring the overall quality of the work produced.

Media buyer

Negotiates advertising space in print, television, the internet and billboards. Researching into statistics specific to the customer they use their knowledge of the industry and media owners to evaluate the most effective advertising method for each project. Also responsible for meeting targets, ensuring projects stay within budget and understanding the various contracts involved in their work.

Media planner

Works with clients enabling them to meet company objectives by using their marketing budget to create advertisement through appropriate media platforms. Work includes creating a plan to do this. Using above the line advertising methods, media planners are also increasingly having to construct advertising campaigns which target individuals, use digital methods, product placement and new emerging methods.