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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, the roles available, how to gain work experience and much more.


Exploring the sector 

What is advertising?

AdMission, the website run by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) for graduates interested in advertising careers defines advertising as:

Advertising is anything that promotes a brand or concept.

In the days of Mad Men, that meant an advert on the telly, in the newspaper, on the radio or on a billboard.

Nowadays, advertising can be a tweet, a stunt, a start-up, a film, a website or even now products and services like the Nike+ Fuelband.



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 number 13,500 in the UK alone, of which 350 have IPA status. All but 40 of these are based in London. Traditionally these agencies offer advertising aimed at a mass market such as TV, although this now often encompasses digital marketing too.

Outside London, agencies tend to fall into two categories: 

  • 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

View a list of IPA agencies

Trends in advertising

Advertising has been transformed by technology.

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?


Their role is to 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.
They 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 manager
Acting as a link between clients and the agency, account managers 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 planner
The larger London agencies employ strategic planners. 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 strategist
They will 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 researcher
Working 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.
This increasingly important role is to 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.


Starting salaries can be around £18,000 in London, but salaries can shoot up quickly depending on the job role. For example, an account manager could be earning £45,000 after three years, but then plateau at around 40 years of age.

Salaries outside of the big London agencies may be considerably less.


How can I find work experience and my first job?

Opportunities to gain work experience

  • Use the IPA list of member agencies 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 AdMission website also advertises job vacancies.
  • 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.
  • A few advertising agencies in Nottingham are happy for students to literally knock on their door.

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.

However, for copywriting, West Herts College of Higher Education offer postgraduate courses which are noted by the IPA. Falmouth School of Art and Design offer a postgraduate course in creative advertising which is likewise mentioned by some larger agencies when seeking creative talent.

Regardless of your degree background, advertising agencies will be seeking creative thinkers and those with passion for this industry. Relevant work experience is highly desirable. For account management and media buying, customer service experience will enhance commercial awareness.

Vacancy sources

Finding vacancies

  • Log in to My Career – our vacancy database.
  • The University's  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 – do plenty of research beforehand. A good starting point is to search for companies on
  • ScreenSkills contains job profiles, vacancies and a "media speak" glossary of industry terms.

Job sites

The Guardian


Recruitment agencies

The Creative Movement

Blue Skies Careers

Application advice

  • 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?


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