Account executive

Sometimes the marketing sector needs a little help to produce successful campaigns for their clients. As an account executive, also known as an account handler, you'll act as an important link between an advertising agency and its clients.

In this sales job, you'll be striving to understand your client's goals, and then organise the agency's creative and administrative staff to help them produce effective campaigns.  

So, what will I actually be doing?

Your routine tasks are likely to include:

  • Meeting clients to discuss their advertising needs
  • Working with account planners to devise a campaign that meets the client's brief and budget
  • Presenting campaign ideas and costings to clients
  • Briefing the creative team who will produce the adverts
  • Negotiating with clients, solving any problems and making sure deadlines are met
  • Checking and reporting on the campaign's progress
  • Keeping in contact with the client at all stages of the campaign
  • Managing the account's budget and invoicing the client
  • Making 'pitches' to win new business

You would usually handle three or four non-competing accounts at the same time.

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The finer details...

Your basic working hours will be between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, although you may have to work longer if you have deadlines to meet.

You will be office-based but will also travel to meet clients.

Advertising is a very popular career among graduates, and competition for jobs is strong. Jobs are advertised in the national and trade press, on the IPA website and by specialist recruitment agencies. However, not all jobs are advertised, so you could also find work by approaching agencies directly, and through making contacts in the industry.

With experience, you could progress to become an account manager or director. Eventually you could become an agency director, or set up your own agency.

Money, money, money

Figures are a guideline only.

Starting salaries for account executives range from £13,000 to £24,000 a year.

With promotion to account manager, this typically rises to between £30,000 and £45,000.

Top salaries for account directors can reach over £100,000 a year.

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Is there study involved?

You do not need particular qualifications to become an account executive. However, advertising is a very competitive industry and many employers will expect you to be qualified to degree or at least BTEC HND level.

Any degree or HND subject is acceptable, but you may have an advantage with one of the following:

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Statistics or operational research
  • Communication and media studies
  • Business or management
  • Psychology

You can use the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website to search for degree and HND courses. Check course entry requirements with colleges and universities.

You may be able to get into some smaller advertising agencies without a degree if you start in a more junior position such as administrator, and work your way up as your experience and knowledge of the industry develops.

It is a good idea to try to find work experience in an advertising agency before looking for your first job. Contact agencies directly to ask about work placements, or see the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) website for a list of member agencies offering work experience.

Any previous work experience in the media, marketing, communications or sales would also be useful.

You will usually start as a junior account executive and learn on the job, possibly as part of an agency's structured graduate training scheme. Your training would typically cover marketing skills, market research techniques, report writing and communication skills.

You may also be able to work towards qualifications from the professional associations, such as:

  • IPA Foundation Certificate, an online course for junior staff with at least six months' experience in any area of advertising
  • IPA Excellence Diploma, for middle managers with at least three to five years' experience
  • Communication Advertising and Marketing Education Foundation (CAM)
  • Diploma in Marketing Communications - for this you will need a degree or equivalent, or at least two years' relevant work experience.

You can also take short courses to help keep your knowledge and skills up to date throughout your career. See the IPA and the Account Planning Group websites for details.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

To be a successful account executive you'll need:

  • Good spoken and written communication skills
  • Strong presentation and negotiation skills
  • Confidence, tact and a persuasive manner
  • Good organisational and time management skills
  • Good 'people skills', for working with a range of colleagues and clients
  • The ability to lead and motivate a team
  • A willingness to work long hours, often under pressure
  • A professional manner
  • Good business sense and the ability to work to budgets


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