This page has been written by Liz Batterham
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Liz, or any of our advisers, visit our website
What is advertising?
- Advertising is a creative industry covering a range of diverse activities from new media and e-commerce campaigns using the internet, to the management of huge national campaigns using film, television, cinema, radio, direct mail and the press, to small advertisements in local newspapers.
- Advertising is not only concerned with persuading people to buy goods or services, but also encompasses other aspects of the communications sector such as PR, market research, brand consultancy and marketing.
- Advertising is one of the most dynamic sectors in the economy, employing over 250,000 individuals in the UK. It's fast-moving; online advertising is now 25% of total expenditure and the UK is ahead of both the USA and the rest of Europe in its adoption of digital.
Where are the jobs?
- 80% of opportunities are with agencies. Many of the larger agencies are based in London but also have branches in other major cities in the UK, eg Manchester and Glasgow, offering the chance to work with regional, national and international clients. A large number of agencies are part of international advertising and/or media groups, such as Omnicom and WPP. Many agencies are members of the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising).
What is the work like?
- There is tremendous variety within the industry and great job satisfaction.
- You acquire some of the most sought-after transferable skills in marketing and communications.
- You will network with agencies, clients, suppliers, media owners and consultants, which provides a great variety of future opportunities.
- Career progression within advertising is highly dependent on your skills and ability. The industry works on the basis of meritocracy and it is not uncommon for individuals to be at Board level at the age of thirty!
- You will work in a close knit community, especially in London and opportunities exist to move around within the industry.
- The work may be stressful and highly pressurised, eg when meeting tight deadlines, juggling various clients and projects, or generating ideas when pitching for a new client's business.
According to the Institute of Practioners in Advertising (IPA), job opportunities are increasing. Each new wave of technology gives birth to exciting new creative and media applications which require new skills and fresh talent. The industry is seeking graduates from a wider range of backgrounds and disciplines than ever before.
Do you have what it takes to work in the advertising industry?
Complete the Diagonal Thinking Self Assessment Test to find out if you are a 'Diagonal Thinker'. If you are, you could be suited to the advertising and communications business. The test is free.
There are many different roles available in the advertising industry. Some of the more popular graduate roles include:
- Account manager (also known as Client Services / Account Executive).
- Strategic planning (account planner)
- Media planning and media buyer
- Art director
- Insight executive
Advertising attributes/skills profile
|Key attributes/skills needed for the role ||Where you could develop these skills or attributes|
|Strong lateral and logical thinking skills
||This is likely to be gained and evidenced through your academic studies. It can also be developed through positions of responsibility in student-run societies and student representative.
|A rigorous and creative approach to problem solving
|Ability to link a creative solution to a business problem
||These can be gained from involvement in extra-curricular activities such as student enterprise. A student representative role is also likely to offer opportunities to develop these characteristics
|Persuasive and diplomatic
|Thrive on deadlines and pressure
||Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies will give you the chance to develop your skills of teamwork and collaboration
|Ability to communicate articulately with people at all levels
|An open and enquiring mind
CAPOD offers Leadership courses within its Professional Skills Curriculum.
Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies will give you the chance to put your leadership skills into practice
|Ability to work under pressure as part of a team
|Flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances
Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?
- Understanding and love of brands: essential to any role in the sector, and shows you are passionate about branding, advertising, and product promotion.
- Well-organised with an eye for detail: naturally visualised the best way to promote a brand and can take it from concept to end campaign
- Digital media insight: ability to utilise all digital resources to maximise impact in our fast paced society
- Creative design skills/qualifications (for creative roles)
Networks - why and how to use them
Why are networks important?
- Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your application. Visiting the Careers Centre Graduate Management and Finance Fair and turning up to employer run events is a great way to make valuable connections, it helps to introduce yourself to representatives from the companies ask for their card so you can make contact in the future. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook (many organisations have their own page).
Where alumni work now
- Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Ogilvy and Mather, Grey Group, AMV BBDO, J. Walter Thompson, Karmarama, Leo Burnett, M&C Saatchi, MEC, WPP, Beattie McGuinness Bungay. You will find St Andrews alumni at many of the large advertising agencies all over the world ranging from graduate trainees to CEOs. These alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews.
There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect- is the new networking platform which allows you to connect with alumni and join discussion groups. Find out how to use Saint Connect by viewing the 'Video Tour' (bottom right-hand side of Saint Connect screen).
- Groups – “Advertising” by joining this group you will receive updates on events, competitions, jobs and other sector related news.
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool, this feature shows the career paths of over 30,000+ alumni you can find graduates working at particular organisations in advertising e.g. Ogilvy and Mather, J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett and Beattie McGuinness Bungay. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource.
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
How to gain experience/internships
To gain a graduate position in advertising, it’s certainly an advantage if you have relevant experience or have completed an internship.
- Summer Internships - a number of agencies do offer work experience programmes throughout the year, or summer internships. A list is provided on the AdMission website, and vacancies are regularly updated on the FutureRising website. In addition, the IDM Summer School is a free one week programme supported by the industry to provide a behind-the-scenes look into advertising, digital and data-driven marketing.
- Work Shadowing - try to arrange work shadowing by adopting a speculative approach - can be a real advantage when applying for summer internships - see our networking section on the Careers Centre website and speculative applications for more advice. This is a very common route in! Register for our Work Shadowing Programme to avail of opportunities sourced by the Careers Centre.
- Organisations which offer internships in advertising (not an exhaustive list). Applications normally open in August/September – check individual websites for full details.
- Making speculative applications - work experience or work shadowing is not easy to get but is invaluable even if it's for a short time. It's well worth considering making speculative applications to find opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you in your search:
- The IPA Member Agency List is a good starting point when working out which agencies to approach for work experience.
- Check out the IPA jobs page for internships and work experience opportunities with member agencies. The IPA also tweet each new vacancy from their @IPA_Jobs Twitter feed.
- Use the Campaign A List, a guide to who's who in the media, marketing and advertising industries. Find contacts for organisations that interest you - your application is far more likely to be considered if directed at a named person.
- Recruitment Agencies:There are two main recruitment agencies in the communications sector who help undergraduates and graduates to find work experience:
- The following websites include listings of numerous internship opportunities, and may include some in advertising:
See also the employers listed in the next section - check their websites to find out if they are offering internships.
Professional bodies and trade associations can be a good source of employers - look for their member or partner listings, which you can often search by location. See links below.
How to get a (graduate) job
Some people get their first account planning job straight out of university, while others move across from another agency role, such as account management, or a different field entirely, such as market research or journalism.
Getting a job in the creative department is less straightforward. The main way of entering the profession is to take your ‘book’ of work to art directors and senior copywriters to gain work experience. So networking and speculative approaches are crucial: more on this is included below and in our information about Speculative Approaches and Creative CVs. In many instances people looking to work in more practically creative roles tend to have an art or design background, although this is not essential.
How to start your job search
- For all positions, the majority of employers will look for a minimum 2:1 degree in any degree discipline.
- Many advertising agencies run graduate programmes for those new to the sector, which can vary in length from six months to two years. Deadlines will vary – check with your preferred employer/organisation for up-to-date details.
- With smaller advertising agencies you will need to be more proactive. Look in The Guardian’s Marketing & PR or Media sections and on Brand Republic, the online portal for industry titles such as Campaign, Marketing and Mediaweek.
Professional bodies and trade associations
- Can be a good source of employers - look for their member or partner listings which often have direct links to the employers’ websites. See links below.
Advertising agencies which offer graduate graining schemes. Closing dates for graduate training schemes with the big agencies are often in October or November, so it's important to apply early in your final year. Smaller agencies may not advertise vacancies for graduates and speculative applications will be required.
Here are a few advertising agencies which offer graduate training schemes. Check individual websites for closing dates. The IPA also maintains a list of advertising graduate schemes.
Job search websites. The following websites publicise vacancies in the advertising sector:
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
The recruitment process may vary from agency to agency and each scheme structured differently.
Interviews & Assessment Centres
Relevant Postgraduate Study
Is it a requirement?
A postgraduate qualification is not essential for a career in advertising. Employers often favour applicants with relevant skills and work experience who are able to prove they have a passion and genuine interest in the industry.
Key UK links and resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
- How to Get into Advertising
- The A List - a guide to who's who in media, marketing and advertising
General advertising careers information
Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.
- Advertising Agencies - published by Internships, USA. This online resource will help you find internships with Ad Agencies in the USA. Access via Subscriptions (password required).