Advertising Agency Services, Jobs, Training, and Salaries

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover what it takes to pursue a career at an advertising agency. Learn the different advertising agency types, what kinds of advertising careers are available, and the types of advertising agency jobs open to help you make an informed decision.

[Featured image] A marketer is working at an advertising agency.

Advertising is all around us. It’s present in social media platforms, TV, the internet, and physical ads like billboards, panels, and signs. Working for an advertising agency can be an opportunity to produce creative marketing pieces with other talented professionals for clients. 

In this article, learn more about the types of ad agencies, roles, what a career in an advertising agency entails, and the requirements to start.

What is an advertising agency?

An advertising agency is a company hired by clients and marketers to produce promotional advertising across various media formats. 

What do advertising professionals do?

Advertising professionals can work in various roles depending on the type of services the ad agency offers. Full-service agencies offer broad services, from creative work to media buying to ad placement. Smaller, niche advertising agencies may specialize in a few core services like rich media or banner ads for clients. Here are some top advertising agency types of jobs and roles to explore.  

Copywriting

If you enjoy writing, you might consider becoming a copywriter at an advertising agency. Copywriters are creative storytellers; they come up with promotional advertising copy, brand stories, social media content, and product copy to promote and sell the products. Copywriters may work with team members to brainstorm creative ideas for an advertising campaign. 

Copywriters often think of advertising slogans that have lasted a generation, like “Wheaties: The Breakfast of Champions,” Coca-Cola's “The Pause That Refreshes,” and Gillette’s “The Best a Man Can Get.” All of these memorable slogans may have started from a copywriting session. 

Artwork

The team responsible for the overall artistic direction for an advertising campaign is typically the art or creative director and their respective teams. In these roles, some responsibilities may include:

  • Building the image of an advertising campaign

  • Determining how a product should look

  • Choosing which colors to use for campaigns

  • Selecting the type of sets on TV

Media planning and buying

Media planning is another part of an advertising agency. You would be involved in finding the target audience for the advertised product or service. You’ll typically work with the client as a media planner, learn about the target audience's preferences, the channels they use, and what messaging is most audience-appropriate. 

Media buyers are primarily responsible for finding the relevant advertisers and media sites to advertise on; you might do this in various ways: 

  • Using advertising platforms like Google Ads to place ads for clients within the Google search

  • Using artificial intelligence tools and algorithms to enable real-time bidding for advertising space on channels that match the client’s target audience

  • Negotiating advertising rates and run times with advertisers, also known as direct buys, usually happens when the marketer and advertising channel have a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Producing commercial spots on radio and television 

You may also work in radio or TV production in a job that produces broadcast ads involving audio or video production. In these roles, you'll consider the audience's needs and current state of affairs. You'll work on writing scripts, creating storyboards, and working with a production team to engage talent and make the ad. 

Market research is an integral part of advertising, it’s used to identify customers, learn about their desires, and configure your product or service that reaches more prospective customers. Good market research can turn a well-planned advertising campaign into a major win.

Read more: Market Analysis: What It Is and How to Conduct One

Social media manager

Social media is often the voice of the brand. If you're in charge of a brand’s social media, you must understand what content is required. 

In this role, you will create and post content for the brand on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. You’ll likely also respond to customers and report on social media results to the client. 

Read more: What's a Social Media Manager? And How to Become One

Public relations

Public relations (PR) is media coverage earned through your efforts versus paid media, or paid advertising. It involves creating newsworthy items to offer to media outlets that will carry coverage of your company's news. PR can help build up a company's brand and reputation.

Merchandising and sales promotion

Merchandising and sales promotion are also areas that some specialized advertising agencies create for clients. In merchandising or sales promotion for an advertising agency, you’ll likely handle requests and orders for specialty items, like coffee cups, T-shirts, and other products. Merchandising products for a company serves to strengthen a company’s brand awareness. 

Marketing manager

A marketing manager is responsible for analyzing and tracking aspects of advertising campaigns, such as marketing budget, creative materials, and web analytics.

To succeed as a marketing manager, having a digital marketing background would be helpful. You’ll need to understand the brand you're working with and its industry. 

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Services offered by advertising agencies

When you work for an advertising agency, you'll learn the industry’s unique terms when working for an advertising agency. Ad agencies tend to use the following three terms to describe the services they offer. 

Above the line advertising (ATL)

Above the line advertising refers to efforts more aligned with large-scale national advertising campaigns that bring repeated exposure to customers through various channels. 

ATL advertising often refers to advertising efforts like TV, movie, radio, newspaper, and billboard ads targeting a broader audience. This could include national ads for mass consumer products like beverages, detergents, and automobiles.  

Below the line advertising (BTL)

Below the line advertising often refers to more specific, targeted advertising aimed at a very focused group of consumers. For instance, advertising a company’s garage door services to a zip code with many private homes with garage doors falls into this category. These are targeted advertising efforts toward a smaller audience than ATL.

Advertising agencies often include this type of work. You might work with couponing to a particular industry or conducting an email survey for a specific demographic. Additional examples of BTL advertising include search engine marketing, paid search, events, social media marketing, and content marketing.

Through the line advertising (TTL)

Through the line advertising is a mix of both ATL and BTL strategies. You might advertise in as many ways as possible to reach the customer. For example, you could help create and manage the flow of online banner ads, TV commercials, and podcast ads, along with more targeted blog content, social media contest posts, and email marketing. Through the line advertising is used on a wide scale and can draw in prospects to other marketing channels that can encourage a chance for customer conversions (turning a prospect into a customer). 

Types of advertising agencies you could work in

If you’re starting a career in an advertising agency, you may work in one of several different advertising agency types. These could include full-service, interactive, media buying, in-house agencies, and creative boutiques.

Full-service agencies 

Full-service advertising agencies provide services, from planning to production and analyzing marketing efforts. They also provide advertising in many media formats, including print, digital, audio, and video. Clients work with full-service agencies to handle their creative work by a single agency entity. You’ll likely work full-time in your chosen specialty if you work for a full-service agency. 

Interactive agencies 

Interactive agencies work with the internet and digital advertising. To work for an interactive agency, you would need to understand the internet, how online advertising works, and a grasp of measuring internet advertising. Examples of digital advertising services you might provide include social media, email, search engine marketing, mobile device campaigns, and more.

Read more: 5 Steps for a Data-Driven Online Marketing Strategy

Creative boutiques 

Creative boutiques typically focus on smaller, more specialized advertising agency work. A creative boutique may do more nimble, customized work for a client that may need a more specific direction. 

You’ll likely be part of a smaller team when you work in a creative boutique agency. Your team may brainstorm new creative campaigns quicker than large agencies. Creative boutique agencies may give you an opportunity to introduce new ideas more efficiently than in a large agency pitch session. 

Media buying agencies 

Media buying agencies work strictly as the media buyer for the campaign. You might work as a paid media marketer or on the paid media team in this role. Media buyers typically manage the media outlets that are important for the advertiser. 

Media buying agencies work to identify the ideal timing for a media buy, identify the best markets for advertising, and recommend a specific budget for the client. In a media buying agency, you might also track the results of an ad campaign. 

In-house agencies 

An in-house agency is a group of professionals working for the client as its internal creative group. It does the advertising for a company within the formal structure of the company, rather than working with an outside company. 

Some of the benefits of working for an in-house agency are that every day, you’re learning about the brand, its assets, and the people who make the brand work. The work is generally both creative and functional, as it’s designed to support the brand mission. You may be tasked to execute the work, as well as brainstorm creative ways to tackle the issue. 

Career outlook and the future of advertising

Revenues for US advertising agencies dropped 6.8 percent in 2020 [1], mostly due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Forrester Group expects the advertising and marketing industry to grow again as the US economy returns to strong growth in the coming years. [2]

Within the advertising industry, some higher-earning jobs include advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, who earn an average of $133,380 per year [3]. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts these professions to see a 10 percent increase in employment from 2020 to 2030. Expectations are that the advertising field should continue to recover in the coming years, especially to meet the demand of all the new advertiser-supported streaming channels. 

Skills and qualifications required to work in advertising

Working in advertising often requires a college education and a comprehension of business administration, data analytics, and digital marketing. Some of the skills and qualifications required to work in advertising typically include:

  • Communication skills: Advertising jobs revolve around communication with consumers. You’ll work with teammates, clients, agency colleagues, and media outlets. 

  • Project management skills: Advertising jobs are about details. When you have good project management skills, you can juggle many details and deadlines to complete projects. 

  • Creative skills: If you’re a creative individual, you might work well in an advertising agency. You may use your creative talents for writing, artwork, production, web design, and audio work. 

  • Marketing and media skills: Knowing how media works and using marketing through different forms of media are crucial skills for you to possess when working for an advertising agency. 

What degrees do advertising professionals typically hold?

Many entry-level positions in advertising require a bachelor's degree. Common advertising degrees include a bachelor's degree in communications, marketing, advertising, and business

You can also pursue a master's degree in the same fields to qualify for managerial roles or specialize in particular areas, such as international marketing, business administration, digital branding, strategy, or advertising and public relations.

Read more: 10 In-Demand Jobs You Can Get with a Business Degree 

Job titles in advertising

Advertising agency jobs can be creative or administrative and managerial roles. Work titles you might find in the creative areas of an advertising agency include copywriter, photographer, graphic artist, web designer, video production artist, and art director. 

On the account management side of an advertising agency, you might work in roles like account manager, supervisor, or director; advertising manager, supervisor, or director; traffic manager, digital ad sales director, and similar business roles within the agency. 

Median salaries for some advertising jobs, as reported by the BLS, include [4]:

  • Advertising sales agent: $52,340

  • Art director: $100,890

  • Editor: $63,350

  • Financial manager: $131,710

  • Graphic designer:$50,710

  • Market research analyst: $63,920

  • Public relations manager: $119,860

  • Writer: $69,510 [5

Get started

If you’re starting to build a career in an advertising agency, start by learning more about advertising jobs or working in a small agency to learn the work requirements. 

If you'd like to learn more about the field, check out some of the advertising programs and courses for beginners on Coursera to see what interests you. Some examples include Advertising and Society offered by Duke University, Integrated Marketing Communications by IE Business School, or Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising by Meta.

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course

Advertising and Society

This course examines the relation of advertising to society, culture, history, and the economy. Using contemporary theories about visual communications, we ...

4.7

(848 ratings)

27,227 already enrolled

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

History Of Advertising, Advertising, Advertising Strategy, Advertising Techniques

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course

Integrated Marketing Communications: Advertising, Public Relations, Digital Marketing and more

Just how familiar are you with a marketing communication campaign? Learn more about this key pillar in the marketing mix and use it to give the push your ...

4.7

(2,108 ratings)

72,439 already enrolled

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Advertising, Integrated Marketing Communications, Marketing Communications, Marketing

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course

Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising

This course takes a deep dive into paid advertising on social media. Learn how to start advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram by developing ...

4.8

(1,357 ratings)

50,407 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Social Media Marketing, Brand Management, Campaign Management, Ad Management

Article sources

1. Statista. "Growth rate of US agency revenue from 2009 to 2020, by discipline, https://www.statista.com/statistics/223933/growth-rate-of-us-agency-revenue-by-discipline/." Accessed September 1, 2022.

2. Forrester. “Marketing Growth Will Accelerate In The Post-Pandemic Era, https://www.statista.com/statistics/223933/growth-rate-of-us-agency-revenue-by-discipline/." Accessed September 1, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm#tab-1.” Accessed September 2, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm#tab-8." Accessed September 2, 2022.

5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Writers and Authors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm." Accessed September 2, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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