Career: Advertising Executive
Advertising professionals combine creativity with sound business sense to market a product based on financial, sociological, and psychological research. To ensure this complicated process works smoothly (and many we surveyed mentioned that you have to be prepared when it doesn’t happen smoothly), you’ll spend a lot of time in the office (a six-day week is not unusual). Most of your time is spent brainstorming, creative blockbusting, and sifting through demographic research; less time is spent meeting with clients or pitching advertising campaigns. Fluidity of daily activity marks the life of the advertising executive who jumps from project to project, but it can’t happen at the expense of attention to detail, and it doesn’t. It takes a very disciplined person to handle both the creative end and the detail-oriented side.
Advertising executives work in teams on projects, so working with others is crucial; those who are successful have the ability to add to other people’s ideas and help them grow. “You can’t have an ego in this business,” mentioned one executive, “but be aware that everybody...has one.” The need to be flexible can not be emphasized enough. As a number of large players in the industry move toward “computer-based brainstorming,”-a way in which creative ideas are kept in a fluid database without regard to account specificity-computer skills will become more valuable. Like most project-oriented careers, you can expect periods of intense activity during which you have little, if any, free time. At other times, the work load is light and mundane. A number of people interviewed said their favorite part of the profession is that “you get recognized when you have a good idea.” They also mentioned that failure is always recognized. The ability to work on a team is one of the most important skills a successful advertising executive has; however, camaraderie and a sense of community beyond any given project is not why people enter advertising. Many of the advertising surveys we received mentioned that in the industry, the word “friend” is a four-letter word.
In general, an outgoing, well-spoken, well-informed person with confidence and common sense is a typical advertising candidate. However, a degree in communications, graphic design, English, psychology or any medium of expression does not hurt in the competitive rush for advertising jobs. The requirements differ depending on whether you become an advertising executive in an advertising firm or within a large manufacturing company. If you are working for a manufacturer, you should have a degree or previous work experience that relates to their product line and/or their demographic profile. Advancement is based mainly on achievement at all levels of the industry, not on academic achievement or course of study, nor on connections or professional associations (although the last two of these are growing in stature).
The skills you obtain in the advertising industry are transferable to any business-oriented setting, and many executives choose to leave the profession after obtaining their MBA. Others stay in advertising, citing the financial rewards, the creative environment, and the constant challenge of “reinventing” themselves for every new campaign. Those who have specialized in a particular area sometimes move in-house at a particular company to direct marketing efforts or review which advertising firms to hire. It is important to note that this career has a significant rate of burnout and that nearly 35 percent of people who reach the level of executive vice president or higher leave the profession.