Advertising Account Executive

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Advertising Account Executive

Education and Training Bachelor's degree minimum

Salary Median—$40,300 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Advertising account executives, also known as advertising sales agents, work for advertising agencies. Account executives are the link between the agency and its clients. They sell the agency's services to the client—the client is usually a company—and work closely with that company's advertising manager. Account executives utilize the agency's various departments—including copywriting, art, and marketing—to create effective advertising campaigns for their clients. In some large agencies account executives report to account supervisors. Generally, however, account executives are supervised by the top management or owners of the agency. In small agencies the owner or partners handle creative work such as copywriting and art and also do the work of an account executive.

Account executives must do extensive research before they can develop a plan for an advertising campaign suited to a client's needs and goals. Usually their first step is to decide on a target market based on information supplied by the client and by the agency's market research department. Having established a target market, account executives start developing the overall creative concept that will be used to promote the item. Before they can do this, however, they must become thoroughly familiar with the company's product.

Take the case of a company that makes ice cream. The advertising account executive must learn all about the client's ice cream, including its ingredients, what flavors are available, the way it is made, how it tastes, how it has been advertised in the past, and its share of all ice cream sales. In addition, account executives gain valuable information for an effective advertising campaign by studying competitors' advertising strategies. In this case the executives would examine the advertising tactics of the region's top-selling ice cream manufacturers.

The completed plan typically includes budgeting and scheduling information, projections of sales resulting from the campaign, and specific information on the sales approach and media to be used—all of which are prepared by the advertising account executive. The final step for account executives is selling the client on the advertising campaign. They may spend a considerable amount of time resolving differences and making changes in the plan until the client grants approval.

Although clients may be consulted frequently in the course of advertising campaigns, it is the account executives who actually direct them. They see that ad campaigns appear on schedule and stay within the limits of the proposed budget. They meet with the artists, writers, photographers, and others who create the ads. During campaigns account executives keep one eye on the creative quality of the ads and the other on the sales figures. If an ad campaign does not achieve the expected results, they must make changes or risk losing the account. A successful campaign, on the other hand, usually guarantees repeat business from the client and may lead to campaigns for new clients.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective advertising account executives need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the field. A major in advertising, marketing, business administration, or the liberal arts is useful preparation. Many large advertising agencies prefer applicants who have a master's degree in business administration.

Any job experience in sales, advertising, market research, or advertising research is helpful for landing a job as an entry-level account executive. Summer work, part-time jobs, and internships are a good way to start. Large advertising agencies usually offer a specialized training program for account executives. In smaller agencies new hires learn the business from seasoned executives.

Getting the Job

Competition is fierce for entry-level positions at top advertising agencies. Qualified candidates should apply directly to the ad agencies for which they would like to work. School placement offices sometimes help their students find positions. Private employment agencies, newspaper want ads, and career sites on the Internet also provide job listings in this field.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With skill, experience—and sometimes luck—an account executive can advance to the highest positions in an agency. Executives may become account supervisors of one or more accounts or go to work for a former client as an advertising manager. Many account executives start their own agencies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising account executives held about 154,000 jobs in 2004. Employment of account executives was expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. As the population expands and more outlets for advertising become available on the Internet and through cable television, ad agencies will likely hire more account executives. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the need for new hires may decrease somewhat if advances in office technology make existing account executives more productive. Competition within the advertising industry is notoriously keen.

Working Conditions

Advertising account executives work under a great deal of pressure in a highly competitive environment. They put in long hours and are ultimately responsible for seeing that artists and copywriters meet their schedules. In addition, the position of advertising account executive offers little job security. If an advertising agency loses a big account, the people who worked on that account may lose their jobs.

Account management does have its perks, however. Executives have expense accounts for clients, do a lot of wining and dining to win business, and occasionally go on location to assist in filming commercials.

Where to Go for More Information

American Academy of Advertising
College of Mass Communications
Texas Tech University
Box 43082
Lubbock, TX 79409
(806) 742-3385

American Advertising Federation
1101 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20005-6306
(202) 898-0089

American Association of Advertising Agencies
405 Lexington Ave., 18th Fl.
New York, NY 10174-1801
(212) 682-2500

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on the location of the agency and the account executive's experience and education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2004 the median annual salary for advertising account executives was $40,300. Those who demonstrated an ability to run consistently successful campaigns earned much more. The top-paid 10 percent of account executives made $89,720 or more per year. Benefits include paid vacations and holidays as well as health insurance and retirement plans.

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Advertising Account Executive

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