Exploring this Job
If you aspire to a career in the advertising industry, you can gain valuable insight by taking writing, design, and art courses offered either in school or by private organizations. In addition to the theoretical ideas and techniques that such classes provide, you can actually apply what you learn by working full or part time at local department stores or newspaper offices. Some advertising agencies or research firms also employ students to interview people or to conduct other market research. Work as an agency clerk or messenger may also be available. Participating in internships at an advertising or marketing organization is yet another way to explore the field, as well as to determine your aptitude for advertising work. Talk with advertising workers about their careers. You may find it helpful to read publications dedicated to this industry, such as Advertising Age (https://www.adage.com).
Approximately seven out of every 10 advertising organizations in the United States are full-service operations, offering their clients a broad range of services, including copywriting, graphics and other art-related work, production, media placement, and tracking and follow-up. These advertising agencies may have hundreds of people working in a dozen different departments, while smaller companies often employ just a handful of employees. Most agencies, however, have at least five departments: contact, research, media, creative, and production.
Contact department personnel are responsible for attracting new customers and maintaining relationships with existing ones. Heading the contact department, advertising agency managers are concerned with the overall activities of the company. They formulate plans to generate business by either soliciting new accounts or getting additional business from established clients. In addition, they meet with department heads to coordinate their operations and to create policies and procedures.
Advertising account executives are the contact department employees responsible for maintaining good relations between their clients and the agency. Acting as liaisons, they represent the agency to its clients and must therefore be able to communicate clearly and effectively. After examining the advertising objectives of their clients, account executives develop campaigns or strategies and then work with others from the various agency departments to target specific audiences, create advertising communications, and execute the campaigns. To present concepts, as well as the ad campaign at various stages of completion, to clients for their feedback and approval, account executives must have some knowledge of overall marketing strategies and be able to sell ideas.
Working with account executives, employees in the research department gather, analyze, and interpret the information needed to make a client's advertising campaign successful. By determining who the potential buyers of a product or service will be, research workers predict which theme will have the most impact, what kind of packaging and price will have the most appeal, and which media will be the most effective.
Guided by a research director, research workers conduct local, regional, and national surveys in order to examine consumer preferences. Working with the survey results, they then determine potential sales for the targeted product or service. Researchers also gather information about competitors' products, prices, sales, and advertising methods. To learn what the buying public prefers in a client's product over a competitor's, research workers often distribute samples and then ask the users of these samples for their opinions of the product. This information can then be used as testimonials about the product or as a means of identifying the most persuasive selling message in an ad.
Although research workers often recommend which media to use for an advertising campaign, media planners are the specialists who determine which print, broadcast, or Internet media will be the most effective. Ultimately, they are responsible for choosing the combination of media that will reach the greatest number of potential buyers for the least amount of money, based on their clients' advertising strategies. Accordingly, planners must be familiar with the markets that each medium reaches, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of advertising in each.
Media buyers, often referred to as space buyers (for newspapers and magazines), time buyers (for radio and television), or Web buyers (for Internet and tech devices), do the actual purchasing of space and time according to a general plan formulated by the media director. In addition to ensuring that ads appear when and where they should, buyers negotiate costs for ad placement and maintain contact and extensive correspondence with clients and media representatives alike.
While the contact, research, and media departments handle the business side of a client's advertising campaign, the creative staff takes care of the artistic aspects. Creative directors oversee the activities of artists, graphic designers, photographers, and writers and work with clients and account executives to determine the best advertising approaches, gain approval on concepts, and establish budgets and schedules.
Copywriters take the ideas submitted by creative directors and account executives and write descriptive text in the form of headlines, jingles, slogans, and other copy designed to attract the attention of potential buyers. In addition to being able to express themselves clearly and persuasively, copywriters must know what motivates people to buy. They must also be able to describe a product's features in a captivating and appealing way and be familiar with various advertising media. In large agencies, copywriters may be supervised by a copy chief.
Copywriters work closely with art directors to make sure that text and artwork create a unified, eye-catching arrangement. Planning the visual presentation of the client's message, from concept formulation to final artwork, the art director plays an important role in every stage of the creation of an advertising campaign. Art directors who work on commercials and videos combine film techniques, music, and sound, as well as actors or animation, to communicate an advertiser's message. In publishing, art directors work with graphic and digital designers, photographers, copywriters, and editors to develop brochures, catalogs, direct mail, and other printed and digital pieces, all according to the advertising strategy.
Art directors must have a basic knowledge of graphics and design, computer software, printing, photography, and filmmaking. With the help of graphic artists, they decide where to place text and images, choose typefaces, and create storyboard ads and videos. Several layouts are usually submitted to the client, who chooses one or asks for revisions until a layout or conceptualization sketch meets with final approval. The art director then selects an illustrator, graphic artist, photographer, or TV or video producer, and the project moves on to the production department of the agency.
Production departments in large ad agencies may be divided into print production, digital production, and broadcast production divisions, each with its own managers and staff. Production managers and their assistants convert and reproduce written copy and artwork into printed, filmed, or recorded form so that they can be presented to the public. Production employees work closely with imaging, printing, and other art reproduction firms and must be familiar with various printing processes, papers, inks, typography, still and motion picture photography, digital imaging, and other processes and materials.
In addition to the principal employees in the five major departments, advertising organizations work with a variety of staff or freelance employees who have specialized knowledge, education, and skill, including photographers, prepress workers, printers, telemarketers, product and package designers, and producers of display materials. Finally, rounding out most advertising establishments are various support employees, such as production coordinators, video editors, proofreaders, word processors, statisticians, accountants, administrators, secretaries, and clerks.
The work of advertising employees is fast-paced, dynamic, and ever-changing, depending on each client's strategies and budgets and the creative ideas generated by agency workers. In addition to innovative techniques, methods, media, and materials used by agency workers, new and emerging technologies are impacting the work of everyone in the advertising arena, from marketing executives to graphic designers. The Internet is undoubtedly the most revolutionary medium to hit the advertising scene. This technology allows researchers to precisely target markets and clearly identify consumer needs. Web pages provide media specialists with a powerful vehicle for advertising their clients' products and services. New technology has also been playing an important role in the creative area. Most art directors, for example, use a variety of computer software programs, and many create and oversee Web sites for their clients. Other interactive materials and vehicles, such as online catalogs, touch-screens, text messaging, multidimensional visuals, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are changing the way today's advertising workers are doing their jobs.