Careers Service Occupations

Advertising

Advertising

About

Advertising is one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy, employing nearly 270,000 individuals in the UK.

It’s fast-moving and innovative. The Institute of Practitioners (IPA) in Advertising say online advertising is 25% of business expenditure. 

The UK is ahead of both the USA and the rest of Europe in its adoption of digital.

Jobs in advertising are changing to reflect the needs of a global digital economy. The industry want graduates from a wider range of disciplines, such as economics, languages and computer science.

Gaining relevant experience and networking is vital to getting a graduate job in this competitive field. You will need to be resilient and self-reliant, with strong commercial awareness. Experience in this field tends to come through speculative applications.

Careers advice

Careers websites

Industry websites

  • AdMISSION – includes industry guide, job profiles and list of graduate schemes and internships
  • futurerising – advice and tips on getting into advertising and marketing
  • Diagonal Thinking test – this test helps people identify whether they have what it takes to succeed
  • How to break into advertising – includes advice on CVs, covering letters and interviews

The Guardian

Video

Careerplayer displays careers videos describing a range of roles within advertising.

Industry news

Brand Republic covers marketing and communications news, company profiles and a careers section. It is useful for keeping up-to-date with the sector. See BrandRepublic: Advertising for news and analysis.

The Drum features industry news and jobs and The Wall is a social media and marketing blog.

Campaign is useful for industry awareness. It tells you what’s going on in the industry and which agencies act for which clients.  

Professional bodies 

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. 

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them and sector skills bodies on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

Professional associations

Sector skills councils/industry groups

Making contacts

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, is useful for making contacts, finding employers and opportunities. Find out more about how to use social media for your career and subscribe to our Advertising sector Twitter list.

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts.

Our main event is Newcastle University Creative Careers – see information from A day in the life of an advertising agency (PDF, 553KB).

Have a look at our External Events page.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Marketing or PR. See our other occupational pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

As well as the more traditional advertising roles listed below, there are also emerging roles with the growth in digital.

Ben Quigley, CEO of EverythingDifferent agency in Newcastle and Chairman of the IPA (England and Wales), told us:

‘Agencies need people with new skills to fill these opportunities. If you are a thinker or analytical you might make a good strategist, planner or data manager. 

'If you are good with words and pictures or UX (user experience) you may be cut out for a creative career or tech development. 

'If you are highly organised and personable, you might make a good project manager or production manager. If you are a journalist, you may find opportunities within a content team or brand newsroom.’

For these new areas, employers are keen to attract graduates from an increasingly wide range of degree disciplines. These can include statistics, biology and computer science. See the IPA website to find out more.

See also AdMISSION for more job profiles.

Advertising account executive

Advertising account planner

Advertising art director

Advertising copywriter

Creative director

Media buyer

Media planner

Media analyst

Skills employers look for

Employers look for skills including:

  • good analytical skills and the ability to generate ideas; being strategic as well as creative
  • the ability to communicate your ideas clearly and convincingly
  • very good organisation and the ability to stick to tight deadlines
  • the ability to work under pressure and show initiative
  • a team player – all aspects of an advertising campaign are rarely developed by one person
  • the ability to form strong working relationships

Recruiters will be looking for a good degree, not necessarily in a related subject. They will seek enthusiasm for and understanding of the industry.

Advertising agencies also look for people who can switch between linear and lateral thinking to find solutions to complex problems. 

The IPA call this ‘diagonal thinking’ and have devised a free self-assessment test to help you find out if you’re suited to the industry.

Gaining Experience

Getting into advertising is extremely competitive. Work experience can be invaluable in developing relevant skills and demonstrating your interest and commitment to recruiters.

Advertising employers value work experience over further academic study. While some postgraduate courses do include a work placement and have links with industry, a postgraduate qualification is not essential and will not guarantee a higher salary. 

Several large advertising agencies offer internships and graduate schemes, for example, FallonLeo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather

Applications generally open around September, with closing dates as early as October and November. Ogilvy opens applications for their fellowship programme in January.

Smaller agencies often don’t advertise jobs or work experience. You may need to contact them with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can be competitive.

Finding work experience

Internships and placements  

EveythingDifferent in Newcastle has offered work experience in the past.

See Internships, placements and shadowing for additional ways to find work experience.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Pathfinders media recruitment arrange vacation and two-week unpaid work placements in London agencies for graduates. 

F1 Recruitment is a London-based recruitment agency which offers work experience for students.

Finding companies 

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show you’re keen.

See BrandRepublic for an interesting article about approaching advertising agencies.

Talk to people working in the sector, eg informational interview, for insight into the roles found in advertising.

AdJobWall has a list of advertising agencies you could follow on Twitter.

Other ways to gain experience

If you're struggling to find work experience, you could try alternative routes, such as:

  • applying to join the Student Communications Team promoting the Careers Service and its events
  • entering an advertising-related competition, such as L’Oreal’s Brandstorm and D&AD. The JWT YES Award is a monthly competition that celebrates creative talent and could lead to a three-month paid placement. See Awards & Competitions for details of other external competitions
  • working freelance. Talent Cupboard provides opportunities for students and graduates to work freelance on real briefs
  • practising your written skills by writing promotional copy for societies, articles for the Courier or create your own blog
  • getting advice on your portfolio. The Young Creative Council has a list of agency creatives happy for you to contact them
  • thinking about voluntary work: charities and voluntary organisations often need communications expertise. See Volunteering

You can develop your commercial awareness by researching agencies and looking at recent campaigns. 

Think about what the core message of the campaign is and why the brand would want to promote itself in that way. What is it trying to achieve and what impact does it have?

Finding Jobs

Opportunities are found mostly within advertising agencies, but there is a growth in companies developing agencies in-house, eg Specsavers, Google and Metro.

Competition is strong, especially for initial positions.

Professional bodies also advertise graduate positions. See About for a list of organisations.

Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and research employers for speculative applications.

Vacancy sites

For more sources of vacancies, go to Graduate jobs.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Finding companies

Find agencies that interest you and get in touch – always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

For opportunities in the US, see 4A’s – the trade association for the US advertising industry. It includes an agency search tool – useful for speculative applications and networking.

Work for yourself

In advertising, opportunities to work as an independent consultant are rare.

Some experienced professionals, however, do go on to form their own agencies/consultancies.

For more information and advice on freelancing and self-employment, visit our Work for Yourself pages.