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Introduction to advertising

"Communication with the users of a product or service with the intention to inform or influence them."

Advertising is a way of communicating to people with the aim of persuading them into taking or continuing an action. Put simply, advertising is used to tell us to do something.

Most people think of advertising as anything a brand does in terms of communication. David Ogilvy, one of the best known legends of advertising, thought this way and we wouldn't dare to disagree.

Advertising is delivered via many different channels, such as TV and radio adverts, magazine pages and online banners. Not forgetting written content, video content, social media and brand experiences. Plus the most powerful form of advertising, word of mouth. If a company can get an individual to recommend them, their products or services to someone who trusts them, it is human nature for the other person to take the recommendation on board.

We are bombarded by advertisements every day, typically through our electronic devices or via the environment we live, work and play in.

The majority of messages we see are paid for by brands and most of the time we are being targeted. If that sounds weird, think about the adverts you see on TV in the breaks between football compared with those in between reality shows. We're not here to stereotype but the data that is collected means advertisements can target particular groups of people knowing the chances of them watching or listening is high.

A job in advertising can be varied, unbelievable and fun. Picture the following working week. Monday morning meeting around the ping pong table, writing a thousand headlines for a new type of suntan lotion on Tuesday and later in the week, flying off to a beach to film a dancer fighting a bear then back in time to convince the Marketing Director of Coca-Cola to give you an extra £1 million for a new advertising campaign.

Ok, maybe your first week won't be quite like that. But by getting into the industry you will have taken the first steps towards making it happen. And that's exactly what we are here for, to help you take your first step into Advertising.

How advertising works

The majority of advertising is paid for by brands and often created by an advertising agency that the brand has hired.

So here's how an advertising agency works. but don't forget that the team are constantly meeting, speaking with the client and developing every last detail to perfection, it ain't colouring by numbers.

Clients will have an idea of what they want and why they want it. They'll meet with the planners, account managers and sometimes the senior management at an advertising agency.

This meeting of minds helps the planners form the clients plans into a strategy, this will be agreed and combined with some insights to create a creative brief.

The creatives take this brief and work their socks off to come up with ideas that fit with what the project is trying to achieve.

The client is shown the best ideas. They may love one straight away or reject a number of ideas before they're happy. Typically, an idea will be developed until it's spot on and the advert can go into production.

Throughout the process, the advertising agency will get in touch with media companies, branding companies, creative individuals and all sorts of people to make sure their idea can come to life (if they can't do everything themselves). Advertising is a very collaborative process, some agencies even team up on some projects.

Once everything is in place, the advertisement is produced and launched. From here the client may ask the agency to review how successful it has been to help plan the next project.

Before we wrap it up, there's the important process of pitching to talk about. A brand doesn't always just choose an agency and hire them. Often there's a pitching process where agencies compete to win the client and their business. The brand will offer up a rough outline of their business problem to a number of agencies who will try to think of the best ideas, strategy, etc. The client will then choose their favourite and hire them. If this sounds like agencys have to do a lot of work for free, it's because they do. For this reason, Some agencies refuse to pitch for work but it is still the most common practice.

Advertising examples

  • VW – Think Small
    DDB, 1959 (Print)

  • Sony Bravia – Balls
    Fallon London, 2005 (TV)

  • Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
    Wieden+Kennedy, 2010 (TV)

Jobs in advertising

Advertising agencies employ people from all backgrounds. Whether you’re studying psychology, history or nothing at all, you can find a way into advertising. Below, we’ve listed out some of the key roles in advertising agencies and all the basic info you should know about them. If you see a job title you like, pop it in your profile so we can send through the opportunities that match.


Working in accounts involves spending time with the client, understanding their needs and feedback as well as working with the rest of the agency to make sure you are delivering the required work to the required deadlines. You’ll need to be easy to get on with, self-motivated, well organised and adaptable to different situations.

Skills required:

  • Organisation
  • Sociable
  • Presenting
  • Maths
  • English


  • Account Executive
    (A.K.A. Account Manager, Account Handler, Client Services Executive)
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k


Starting out in planning will require a curious mind, an interest in solving problems and an eye for analysing human behaviour. The insights you uncover will help guide the creative teams as they develop ideas.

Planners chew over the clients needs and undertake research into the target audience and competitors. They then use these learnings to write a creative brief for the creatives.

Skills required:

  • Research
  • Psychology
  • Understanding data
  • Identifying trends
  • Awareness of new technology
  • Long-term planning


  • Junior planner
    (A.K.A. Account Planner, Strategist or Strategic Planner)
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k


Ideas, ideas and more ideas. Every day your imagination will be called upon to create ways to solve a problem, answer a question, explain a product or visualise the future. Creatives explore the problem and use their experience to come up with ideas. When they have found the right idea, they’ll sketch out, write and/or storyboard the adverts.

You'll need to be inspired by everything around you, a sponge for creativity and if you can add in the ability to sell your ideas to others, you're on to a winner. It's also important to keep up-to-date with with what's happening in the world to help fuel your ideas.

Skills required:

  • Idea generation
  • Knowledge of layouts, colours and other visual elements
  • Copywriting
  • Presenting


In advertising, creatives will often form teams (an art director and a copywriter) and work together though this isn't always necessary.

  • Junior Creative Team
    Starting salary: £18k to £30k (each)
  • Junior Copywriter
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k
  • Junior Art Director
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k


Adverts are pretty scientific when you strip them back. Being able to research an entire industry, product area or country takes a long time unless you know how to spot the juicy bits.

Being inquisitive about human behaviour, having an excellent eye for spotting trends, the ability to navigate the trillions of pages on the internet and analysing data quickly are key to providing your team with a report that guides their planning and creativity.


  • Internet navigation
  • Distilling data
  • Identifying trends
  • Current affairs
  • Concise writing


  • Research Analyst
    Starting salary: £25k to £28k


This department is covered in more detail in our media industry guide. Some advertising agencies employ their own media teams, the majority use a media agency.


Types of production vary and it is sometimes done in collaboration with a specialist company. When it comes to design production, you'll need experience under your belt to make sure all of the artwork, assets and work you are producing are absolutely perfect.

With regards to animation, film and other ways a final advert can appear, you could start out as a production assistant. A small amount of big agencies a large number of specialist companies offer these roles.

Skills required:

  • Design experience
  • Production of own projects
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Film experience
  • Animation program knowledge


  • Production Assistant
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k


A few years ago, we would have told you this was called IT and done by external companies or a couple of people in the basement of a big agency. Nowadays, it's pretty rockstar and there is a huge wave of people entering creative companies with the ability to design and create websites, build software, hack, build apps, put hardware together and generally be a bit of a whizz on computers.

Skills required:

  • User experience
  • User interface
  • Designing for web / mobile
  • App building
  • Web / mobile development


  • Junior Tech Designer
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k*
  • Junior Developer
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k*
  • Front End Developer
    Starting salary: £18k to £25k*

*These starting salaries are typical but given that these roles are based more on skill than anything else, in exceptional cases you may be able to start on a lot more. We once knew a Front End Developer who was offered almost £40k for his first job.

Advertising agencies

There’s a silly number of advertising agencies in the UK and they vary tremendously. There are traditional agencies, digital agencies and integrated agencies. Agency culture and atmosphere also varies massively. The great thing is, no matter what you want to do and how you want to do it, there’s an agency out there suited to you.

Take a look at these lists. The best way to know if you are suited to a big, medium or small agency is to experience them but if that's not possible, do your research well and base it on how much you like the personality of the agency and the people who work there.

The advantages of working for a small company are you get closer to the senior people and can learn a lot from them. The advantage of a bigger agency is that the size of the clients and projects are also bigger, making your CV look impressive and helping you learn how to deal with big money and big impact.

Small (0-50 people)

Medium (50-250 people)

Large (250+ people)

Recommended advertising books