Advertising Account Executive

The Job and What's Involved

Advertising account executives work to get their clients' messages across to the public. Employed by advertising agencies, they act as the main point of contact between the agency and client.

Agencies are constantly seeking new ideas to engage the public. They increasingly use new methods, such as 'viral', online campaigns, as well as traditional advertising methods such as TV, newspapers, posters, radio and direct mail.

The job of an account executive is to quickly grasp each client's goals, and make use of the resources of their agency to build the most effective campaign. They may find themselves promoting business brands, from cars to cat food, or developing awareness campaigns for a charity or government body.

Tasks may include:

  • Researching clients' products, services, plans, competitors and target markets.
  • Meeting clients for briefings.
  • Briefing agency colleagues, and working with them to plan and implement the best advertising solutions for the client.
  • Presenting proposals to the client for approval.
  • Ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • Meeting clients to discuss strategy and report on progress.
  • Responding to clients' requests as they arise.
  • Taking part in pitches for new contracts.
  • Keeping records and handling invoices.

Account executives may focus on a single client or work on behalf of several at once.

To ensure client requirements are met, account executives need to work closely with colleagues, including media planners and buyers, copywriters, designers and administrative staff. They usually report to an account manager or account director.

Long hours are common, and advertising staff are expected to work flexibly to meet project deadlines. This may include evening and weekend work.

Advertising Account Executives are office-based. They travel frequently for meetings, and may be expected to socialise with clients.

In agencies with international operations, travel abroad may be required.

Starting salaries may vary between £12,000 and £24,000 a year, depending on the type and size of the employer.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 3,700 account executives in the UK. They are employed by advertising agencies. Over two-thirds of advertising staff are based in London, but there are employers in cities across the country.

There are several different types of agency:

  • Integrated or 'full service' agencies, offering clients the whole range of advertising advice and creative services.
  • Media agencies, which specialise in buying advertising space.
  • Digital agencies, which focus on online marketing.
  • Direct mail and direct marketing agencies.

Agencies vary in size. Almost half employ fewer than 20 people. The relatively compact size of the industry means competition for vacancies is intense.

It is very helpful to find a work placement with an agency, although these are also in high demand. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) lists agencies that run formal placement schemes.

Vacancies can be found in trade publications, such as Campaign, on the IPA website and specialist websites. Several recruitment agencies specialise in the advertising and marketing sector. Some vacancies go unadvertised. It is a good idea to make speculative applications to agencies after researching their work.

Education and Training

Most Advertising Account Executives hold a degree. This is not necessarily in a directly relevant subject, although degrees in advertising, marketing and business are available.

For a degree, the usual entry requirements are at least two A levels/three H grades, plus five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

It is possible to enter without a degree, although this is quite rare. Entrants may be able to progress to the position of account executive by working their way up from a work placement scheme or employment in a junior administrative capacity. Employers will normally expect candidates entering the industry in this way to have some A levels/H grades, as well as knowledge of and enthusiasm for the industry.

Graduate trainees generally undergo an induction period of a few months before becoming account executives. During this time they learn about the industry and shadow experienced colleagues.

This initial training typically covers:

  • Marketing skills, such as how to gather brand information and analyse competition.
  • Advertising skills, including research techniques.
  • Organisational skills, e.g. team co-ordination and drawing up schedules.
  • Communication skills, such as drawing up contact reports to record details of a client meeting.
  • People skills, including negotiating.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The IPA offers short courses in specific skills, such as new technologies. Graduates employed by IPA-affiliated agencies can join a seven-stage training programme that offers training at each stage of their career, up to the level of managing director.

The Communication Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation (CAM Foundation) offers a Diploma in Marketing Communications, which can be useful for Advertising Account Executives. Study is through part-time, intensive or distance learning. Entrants need to have a degree-level qualification or at least two years' experience in a relevant role.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offers a range of marketing qualifications, including a postgraduate diploma.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An advertising account executive must be:

  • Quick to absorb and analyse large amounts of information.
  • Enthusiastic, energetic and imaginative.
  • Approachable, outgoing and diplomatic.
  • A clear communicator, in person and writing.
  • Able to present ideas with conviction.
  • Highly organised and flexible.
  • Passionate about advertising.
  • Good with figures.
  • IT literate.
  • Comfortable working as part of a team.
  • Skilled at negotiating and motivating others.
  • Commercially aware.
  • Smart in appearance.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced account executives may progress to an account manager post and later to to the position of an account director.

With further training, they may become client services director, with overall responsibility for the account management department.

After establishing a reputation, some account executives work freelance or set up their own agencies.

Get Further Information

The Advertising Association, 7th Floor North,
Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT
Tel: 020 7340 1100.

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500

Communication Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation (CAM Foundation), Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427120

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA),
44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS
Tel: 020 7235 7020

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