Advertising executives are typically mid-level managers in advertising firms and departments, and the steps required to become an advertising executive, or ad exec, can be time-intensive. Most of the time, hopeful advertising agents must enter the field as advertising specialists or associates who can then work their way up to the executive or senior management level. An educational background in marketing or sales, as well as an energetic personality, a drive for success, and tenacity for creative problem solving usually helps an advertising career move advance.
The majority of advertising executives started at the bottom rungs of an advertising agency or firm, often as interns or low-level account specialists. One of the hallmarks of the account executive position is experience working with clients, building portfolios, and managing ad campaigns. These are skills that take time to build and hone. Most of the time, an advertising agent must have a developed record of success in the advertising field before he or she can become an advertising executive.
There are several ways in which one can begin an advertising career and start down the path to becoming an advertising executive. The first place most people begin is with their education. Many colleges and universities offer degrees in marketing, sales, and communication, which can all be applied to a future in advertising. Degrees in business, graphic or visual design, and media relations are also commonly assets for advertising agents.
Experience is also important. Most employers will want to see a sample of your work before a hiring decision is made. Sometimes, advertising composites or campaigns drafted as a part of a class assignment can be used as a portfolio sample, but the best way to generate quality samples is through hands-on experience.
An internship can be a good place to start. Many advertising firms and agencies hire summer or school-year interns to work as part of creative design teams. The pay is typically low, but the experience in many instances makes the time invested well worth it. Often times, internships can lead to more permanent positions. Internship experience will also give you the chance to interact with full-time advertising agents, and often times even discuss and get feedback on your plans to become an advertising executive.
As with most career paths, there is not one right way to get a job in advertising or become an advertising executive. Being hired by an advertising firm is always a good start, but it is just a foot in the door. Much of your promotion potential once in is a factor of the firm’s needs, your skills, and the availability of advancement possibilities. Before accepting a job in an advertising firm, be sure to ask about the firm’s long-term goals, if they intend to expand in the future, and what your promotion possibilities look like from the outset.
You can also ask to speak with an existing account executive to determine what he or she actually does on a day-to-day basis. An advertising manager in one firm may do quite different work from a similar executive in a different firm. While switching firms mid-career is almost always an option, starting in with an advertising program that you like and can see a future with is one of the best ways to ensure career satisfaction, and to bolster your chances to become an advertising executive.