Advertising -- The Business Side
All ad campaigns are based on thorough market research. Researchers look into product history, track competitor's behavior, and study the buying habits of the target demographic group. When a campaign is completed, there is usually some follow-up research conducted on its effectiveness. Researchers are like agency detectives -- they have to look (and know where to look) for background information and then present the information to the creative and account teams. A background in statistics is helpful. Many people start out in the business as researchers and launch their ad careers from there after learning the effectiveness of various advertising strategies.
Media planners work to target advertising campaigns to specific demographic groups. They conduct research to help determine which audiences would be interested in a product or service, and figure out the best way to reach those audiences. Media planners need to learn what television and radio programs certain groups prefer and what publications are favored by different demographics. Media planners then determine the "media mix," the ratio of different media used -- radio, TV, cable, newspaper, magazines, billboards, buses, etc.
The planner also chooses the time frame for each medium and determines the cost of reaching a certain number of people. After collecting all of this information, a media planner puts together a plan for the account executive, who presents it to the client. Sometimes the client will disagree, and adjustments have to be made.
Media buyers take the media plan determined by the media planners, and make the actual "buys" of air time, magazine pages, billboard space, or web page content. They contact representatives from the different media companies, check on availability, and negotiate prices for each buy. Depending on the size of the agency, media planners also make the buys.
This position only exists in mid-size and large agencies. Marketing directors analyze the information provided by the research department and determine industry, consumer, and market trends. They then make recommendations to the creatives and the client about how to approach campaign strategy.
Business managers oversee the finances at the agency. This means monitoring project budgets and client billing, and making sure that the agency's bills are paid on time. They also decide if an account is becoming unprofitable and consider ways to make new accounts and projects more profitable, which typically involves increasing the profit margin.
The traffic coordinator creates production schedules and controls the flow of work in the agency. If an account executive wants to bring in new business, traffic coordinators tell them whether there is time for that project and what acceptable deadlines are. The traffic coordinator also keeps track of how many projects are in production and when they are due.
The PC works closely with the traffic coordinator to regulate the scheduling of work in the agency. The PC tells the traffic coordinator where things stand in the production department. The PC follows the progress of every project in production and makes sure that people stick to schedules and budgets.
Account executives bring business to advertising agencies, and then act as liaisons between clients and the agency. Like salespeople, they keep track of which competing agencies have what business, which companies are merging or working on new products, which ones are growing, and which companies might be leaving their agencies. After AEs find a lead, they contact the company and try to pitch an account. If an AE makes a good impression, the company may ask for a formal pitch, where the AE would explain how the agency would position the company and what it would do to advertise the company.
After securing the business, the AE is responsible for servicing the account. The AE deals with the clients and makes sure that things get done within budget. One of the AE's most important responsibilities is keeping the client satisfied. Negotiations between the creatives, who may be more interested in advertising as an art, and the client, who often just wants to sell something, requires a great deal of diplomacy. AEs must be adept at explaining the creatives' motives and intentions to the client, while also balancing what they know is good for the client with what the client wants.
After the AE finds out what the client wants in an ad campaign, the AE goes to the agency account team. After the agency develops marketing strategy and creative concepts, the AE brings that information back to the client. Creatives and clients live in a perpetual state of mutual suspicion, so it's up to the AE to balance that tension. The AE has to pay attention to the client's needs while keeping the agency's reputation in mind. The client may think they know what works, but in general, the advertising staff knows more about the business than clients do. (The same problem exists in PR. Because, they work with journalists every day. public relations people.)
Ad people will frequently move from the creative side to account exec positions for the client contact and the possibilities for relationship building.
This is the job that's mostly likely to get you on the road to account executive. ACs assist the AEs, keeping tabs on all of the activity of the accounts they are assigned to. They have to be very detail-oriented, and are often the ones who catch problems that have slipped by others in the group. They work closely with traffic and production coordinators, updating them on the status of projects and alerting them when an account is about to become active. They are also responsible for reminding people about schedules. ACs keep files of each of their accounts with information on industry research, competitor information, press releases, and past advertisements.
This is the next level up from account executive. Account supervisors monitor several accounts and the AEs who work on those accounts. This is largely a managerial position. Account supervisors are ultimately accountable for the AE's performance on each account.