If you're interested in pursuing a career in advertising, this page is a great place to start.
Find out more about how advertising is distinct from marketing and PR, what types of roles are available, how to gain work experience and much more.
What is advertising?
Advertising agencies produce, place and provide advice about advertising material across a range of media, including TV, print, radio and the internet. They also advertise at the point of sale, on billboards and using direct mail promotional campaigns
Research by Ibis World
How does it differ from marketing and PR?
Advertising agencies create campaigns to persuade people to buy or use products, services or organisations and do this by launching advertising campaigns via television, billboards, radio, internet and social media. People employed in advertising generally work for an advertising agency.
Agencies are selected by an organisation's marketing team or consultancy who will brief the advertising agency on the product or service they wish to promote.
Marketing is the overall strategy and process of selling and raising awareness of products and services with an advertising campaign being part of this strategy.
Public relations is about getting positive publicity and media coverage, and acting as a spokesperson for a person, product or service.
See our section on public relations
See our section on marketing
How is the industry structured?
The advertising industry is made up of the following:
- Global agencies sit at the top of the industry and control different agency brands across the world and disseminate contracts to their media channels to create a strategy. Examples include WPP, Omnicom and Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH).
- Independent agencies - the vast majority of these agencies are based in London and have traditionally offered advertising aimed at a mass market such as TV, although increasingly this encompasses digital marketing too.
Outside London, agencies tend to fall into two categories in terms of their scope:
- Integrated offer – an agency that may have started off as a design/artwork studio and have expanded to diversify their offer
- Single-focused – a local agency that specialises in design, digital, PR or direct marketing
Go to the IPA Agency Finder list
Trends in advertising
Advertising has been transformed by technology and is trending towards providing a personalised approach to advertising.
Over 50% of advertising is now online, working with web and mobile, and, increasingly, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
The industry is increasingly moving towards data analysis to create better advertising, leading to more opportunities for those with computer science and maths backgrounds, as well as social scientists who can link this data to human behaviour.
What roles are available?
You can find out more about some of these roles and the other roles in marketing, public relations and advertising on the Prospects website.
- Designers convey a message using images, type, illustrations and photography. Designers work in print or digital to produce an effective advertisement. Art and design at HND or degree-level is usually required.
- Copywriters often work alongside an art director in a large advertising agency. Copywriters work on client briefs to develop and produce advertising campaigns. An ability to write succinct and accurate copy is key.
- Account managers act as a link between clients and the agency. They provide briefs on behalf of the client. They coordinate the advertising campaigns, so need excellent communication skills. Often handling multiple accounts, they need to be highly organised and business-minded.
- Strategic planners are employed by the larger London agencies. Their role is to analyse customer behaviour in order to best target the advertising message. They work on both qualitative and quantitative research to produce innovative ideas.
- Content strategists prepare the outline with the creative team for the launch of a campaign or message. Their main tasks include creating content for videos, competitions and infographics.
- Insight researchers work closely with the designers, their role is to research trends and share their insights to support and guide the creative team. A social science background could be useful in this position.
- Analysts, an increasingly important role in advertising, analyse 'big data' to be used by the planning and research departments to inform customer behaviour. Many IPA companies seek computer scientists and maths graduates, or those with high levels of numeracy.
Is advertising right for you?
Try this online self-assessment activity to help you decide whether a career in advertising is right for you.
Starting salaries can be around £20 - 25,000 per year. The industry is fast-moving and there are positions that people can work their way up in, with salaries rising to over £100k for senior positions such as creative director, managing director and head of strategy.
Multinational companies are likely to offer higher salaries than independent agencies.
How can I find work experience and my first job?
Opportunities to gain work experience
- Use the IPA's Agency Finder to make speculative applications to agencies, although this is a competitive area to obtain work experience in so be prepared to make several applications
- The IPA are developing their careers information about gaining a first job in advertising
- Consider the area of advertising you want to go into and target work experience accordingly (i.e. writing for University or other publications would be beneficial for copywriting)
- Marketing experience could also be beneficial. See our section on marketing
- LinkedIn is a way of raising your profile, advertising yourself and approaching contacts for work experience
- Locally it can be worth literally 'knocking on the doors' of advertising agencies in Nottingham with a copy of your CV
- Consider gaining digital skills with our Digital Marketing Academy
What are the entry routes into the sector?
Many entrants to advertising are graduates from a wide range of disciplines.
While there are numerous postgraduate degrees in advertising and marketing, these are not essential. Relevant work experience is often preferred.
If you're considering a postgraduate course, do some research to see which courses and organisations are valued by employers. Postgraduate courses at West Herts College of Higher Education and Falmouth University have been mentioned by some larger agencies when seeking creative talent.
Regardless of your degree background, advertising agencies will be seeking creative thinkers and those with a passion for the industry. Relevant work experience is highly desirable. For account management and media buying, customer service experience will enhance your commercial awareness.
- Log in to My Career – our vacancy database.
- Our Nottingham Internship Scheme offers opportunities with small-to-medium sized local companies.
- A few advertising agencies offer graduate schemes, such as WPP and Ogilvy. These are competitive and you may need to apply for these in October or November.
- Many openings are never advertised so speculative applications are common. You will need do some research before making your application. A good starting point is to search for companies on the IPA website and Yell.com.
IPA - job listing pages
Blue Skies Careers - Midlands-based recruitment agency
- Emphasise relevant experience whether paid or unpaid including membership of student societies
- Link to any social media channels you have such as Twitter, blogs or LinkedIn – but remember to be professional
- Follow advertising campaigns and agencies on Twitter
- Show awareness of modern culture and brands
- Read your Careers emails and newsletters to ensure that you don't miss out on any advertising and marketing events or news
- Research the sector and identify organisations you may want to gain experience with
What can I do next at Nottingham?