I Want to Work In … Advertising


According to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising there are about 19,000 staff working in member agencies in 2008 with about 700 graduates being recruited per annum. The internet is beginning to dominate advertising with digital agencies growing at about 100% per annum.

There are five main areas of work within advertising agencies, to which graduates of any discipline may be recruited:


Vacancies are scarce in all areas of advertising and competition is fierce, but this will not deter those who are really suited to this career. Graduate training schemes with the big agencies often have closing dates in October or November so it's imperative that you apply early in your final year. Smaller agencies may not advertise vacancies for graduates and speculative applications will be required. See our pages on the Creative Career Search and Creative CVs Lots of graduates get jobs after work experience in an agency and many graduates start as dogsbodies and work their way up.

Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
Stephen Leacock

Qualities required include: communication skills, commercial awareness, creativity, attention to detail, analytical skills, leadership qualities, initiative, enthusiasm, organisational ability, energy and stamina and ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.

Starting salaries can be quite poor (about £19,000) compared with other professional jobs in London, but earnings can rise rapidly if you are successful. This low starting salary means that many people who enter the London agencies already live in London and often have family members who work in advertising, helping them to get work experience. There is quite a high turnover of staff in advertising and many people seem to move out of the profession in their thirties into other areas such as marketing. THe lack of a strong professional qualification can also put new entrants off, but 90% of these now take the IPA Foundation Certificate which forms a good introduction to the industry

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Diagonal Thinking Self-assessment Tool.

This online tool is designed to help individuals see for themselves whether they have the distinctive and uncommon ability to think in two complementary ways, their brains oscillating between linear or rational thinking and creative or lateral thinking. These characteristics, often thought to be contradictory, produce a potent mix which is particularly apposite to working in advertising.

Applicants can complete the self-test online and receive a certificate which can be used in conjunction with their application for one of the various roles in the advertising industry. For further information on Diagonal Thinking and to access the self-test visit www.ipa.co.uk/Content/Diagonal-Thinking-Introduction

PROFILE: Advertising Account Executive

INVOLVES: Liaising with & advising clients on all aspects of marketing communications; briefing agency departments; presenting proposals to clients; managing advertising spend budget; keeping clients up-to-date on their own & competitive activity; proof-reading & approving ads. & artwork; occasionally negotiating with media on clients' behalf; approaching prospective clients whose accounts are under review; liaising with foreign agencies on international accounts; occasional copywriting.
EMPLOYERS: All advertising agencies, a few media independents, PR agencies, design consultancies, sales promotion & direct marketing agencies.
RELATED JOBS: Inside Advertising: MEDIA PLANNERS/BUYERS place advertisements to achieve optimum impact - to reach maximum target audience at minimum price. ACCOUNT PLANNERS are concerned with research, analysis & strategic thinking. COPYWRITERS provide the message that will sell the product. Outside Advertising: Marketing Manager, PR Executive.
SATISFACTIONS: 'My work is seen by millions of people around the world, every day. Successful campaigns make my clients grow (sometimes!) The environment is fast-paced, the work is very varied'. Well paid.
NEGATIVES: Very difficult to get in. Clients can be unreasonable. Not much job security. Long hours. Pressurised - lots of deadlines.
SKILLS: written & spoken communication, leading, persuading, organising, creativity, decision making. Personal qualities required: commercial awareness, initiative, enthusiasm, energy & stamina. Ability to take risks, work under pressure & meet deadlines.
ADVANCEMENT: From account executive to account manager, then account director. Possible to move from account manager to client marketing department as project or advertising/promotions/communications manager.
DEGREE: Any degree subject
POSTGRADUATE STUDY: None needed - some postgraduate advertising courses are available (e.g. West Herts College)
VACANCY SOURCES: Careers Service Vacancy Lists, Campaign, Marketing, Marketing Week, Advertiser’s Annual (Directory).
TIPS: Vacancies extremely scarce & competition fierce. Read 'Campaign' - the weekly advertising trade magazine. Talk to somebody already working in advertising. Get a vacation job (not easy, but possible). Few jobs in advertising are advertised! - essential to make speculative applications. Start early & persist. Large agencies have on-line application form. Otherwise, use CV. Make your application interesting but straightforward (not gimmicky). Ensure it is legible, well-written & correctly spelt! 'Watch/read adverts avidly & evaluate them critically - be prepared to talk about why & how they work or otherwise. Be persistent. Research agency client list before interview. Find out who in each agency to apply to.


PROFILE: Advertising Copywriter

INVOLVES: working together in creative team with graphic designer/art director. Originates ideas & then creates advertisements. Responsible for the verbal part of the creation while the designer deals with the visual part.
EMPLOYERS: Large, small & medium sized advertising agencies. Also advertising departments of larger companies. This latter includes both the private & public sector.
RELATED JOBS: advertising account manager, advertising art director, journalist, public relations.
SATISFACTIONS: Informal work routine & environment. Working on prestigious accounts. Seeing ideas have a positive effect for clients. Good salary.
NEGATIVES: Long hours. Working to very tight deadlines. Rejection of work submitted.
SKILLS: imagination, creativity, communication, teamwork.
ADVANCEMENT: Advertising Copywriter to Senior Copywriter (working on larger more expensive & important accounts) then Creative Director.
DEGREE: Any degree, especially one demonstrating writing skills.
POSTGRADUATE STUDY: A one year postgraduate diploma in Advertising (e.g. West Herts College) is recommended.
VACANCY SOURCES: Campaign, Guardian (Monday). Also directories & lists: Advertisers Annual, Writers & Artists Yearbook, IPA List.
TIPS: Get work experience: it is vital. Prepare a portfolio comprising examples of ads & demonstrating various writing techniques. Find a Graphic Designer to work with.

IPA Copy Test

This is an on-line test which was introduced by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising www.ipa.co.uk. You had to answer 6 random questions on-line which will then be assessed by a creative director from a top agency. the very best applicants were invited to interview and if successful, given a placement with one of these agencies.

Questions were of the type:
  • If you had 24 hours to live, how would you spend it?
  • List 10 things you could do with a coat hanger.
  • You awake from a coma after 15 years: what has changed?
  • You are in a totally white room: describe your surroundings without using the word "white"
  • What do you think this question should be?

Interview questions for an on-line copywriter post

  • What experience of software packages do you have?
  • How did you use your skills to suit the packages you worked on?
  • How much editing/proof-reading were you required to do on your articles?
  • What experience have you had with CMS (Content Mgt Systems)?
  • Have you had any editorial roles?
  • How have you increased an internet site's traffic?
  • How have you used social media in your publications?
  • How could your improve our social media gathering?


You can find full details of all these roles, and background to the advertising industry, in the Prospects Sector Briefing on Advertising & Public Relations www.prospects.ac.uk/links/AdvertisingSB

Questions Kent graduates have been asked at interviews for posts in advertising

If you have been to an interview or assessment centre recently please fill in our interview report form to help other students.

Tests and group exercises used in the selection process


See our applications and interviews section for much more help on interviews

Professional bodies

Advertising Agencies

For a full list of agencies recruiting graduates, see the IPA Factfile under www.ipa.co.uk/careers

The top 30 UK advertising agencies

(Source Nielsen: Campaign Magazine 2008)

1. Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO
2. McCann Erickson Advertising
3. M&C Saatchi
4. Bartle Bogle Hegarty
5. JWT London
7. Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
8. Euro RSCG London
9. Publicis
10. DDB London
11. Leo Burnett
12. Ogilvy Group
13. Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
14. Saatchi & Saatchi
15. TBWA\London
16. Grey Worldwide
17. Fallon London
18. CHI & Partners
19. Mother
20. Lowe
21. VCCP
22. Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
23. The Red Brick Road
24. Wieden & Kennedy
25. Beattie McGuinness Bungay
26. Draft FCB
27. Rpm3 Beechwood
28. Public
29. Uber Agency
30. WFCA Integrated

Recruitment Agencies

Most advertising agencies will not use recruitment agencies to fill entry-level positions – they receive more than enough speculative applications – but there are some specialist agencies

Other useful information sources


Last fully updated 2016