Advertising account planner

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Gina Smith works for a major advertising agency in Manchester. Her job – sometimes called project managing or agency traffic management – involves guiding a project through every stage from the initial brief from the client to completion.

Who do you work for?

I work for the largest independent advertising agency outside London. Our clients include British Airways, Eurocamp, Galaxy Radio and De Vere Hotels. There are currently 61 people working for the company and we are based in the centre of Manchester.

What is actually involved in your job?

The work of a traffic manager or project manager differs from agency to agency, but here, as project manager, I am responsible for managing a job from concept through to completion.

This means getting the best quotes for items like print and paper and advising account handlers on production issues. I brief people in the design studio, liaising with printers and publishers and working directly with clients to ensure deadlines are met.

Can you take us through a project step-by-step?

Initially, I take details of the project from the agency account handler or direct from the client and pass that brief to the studio for artwork. I start to source quotes from a supplier. When the studio designers have completed their work and it's been approved, I brief the supplier we've chosen and provide them with the artwork. I also check proofs, liaise with mailing companies and organise delivery schedules.

What hours do you work?

A normal day begins between 8.30-9 am, through to 5.30-6.30 pm. At times, extra hours are necessary to see a project through to its completion in time to meet deadlines.

What have you been doing this week?

I have been arranging for adverts to be sent to publications in time to meet their copy deadlines. I've been getting quotes for a variety of printed material, including brochures, stickers, exhibition panels, posters and plastic envelopes. I have also co-ordinated a direct mail project for a client.

What made you choose a career as an advertising account planner?

I wanted to work in an industry that involved some form of design and creativity. The best things about it are the people I have met over the years and the variety of work my role entails.

What equipment do you use?

I work on computers using all the industry standard word processing, desktop publishing and graphic programs.

What is the most difficult part of the job?

Managing many projects at the same time, all with different requirements and deadlines.

Do you need any special skills or qualities?

Yes. You need good communication skills and to pay attention to detail. You also need knowledge of print and printing processes and an understanding of how artwork is produced.

Gina's route

  • GCSEs.
  • Started on a youth training scheme.
  • Short courses in systems management and experience in a variety of advertising agency roles.

Gina's account planner tip

  • Remember, there are always downsides as well as good parts to any job.

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Salary of an Advertising account planner

  • Salaries vary hugely, depending on the agency you work for, the specific responsibilities and where you're based.
  • London agencies tend to pay the highest salaries.
  • Starting salaries are likely to be from £12,000 upwards.
  • There's career progression from traffic assistant to traffic or production director.
  • Experienced people at senior levels in major companies can earn up to £75,000.

How to become an advertising account planner

  • Colleges and universities offer degree courses in subjects related to advertising and marketing, but most agencies look for a diversity of experience, so a range of degree subjects is common – English, business, geography and many more. A few colleges are planning to offer project management courses for creative industries.
  • The Communications and Marketing Education Foundation (CAM) runs six Advanced Certificate courses. To get on a course you need at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), although many students have a degree. You can also study the programme part-time, once you've joined an agency.
  • The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the industry's trade body, encourages its agency members to become accredited under their Continuous Professional Development standard. These agencies offer an induction programme for new staff to access a range of courses and qualifications.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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