Advertising Agency Account Executive Profile

What is An Advertising Account Executive, and What Do They Do?

Businesswoman leading meeting in startup office
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

The Account Executive (also know as an AE) in an advertising agency is often referred to as the "middle man" between the client and the creative department. This is quite the understatement, as a great account executive is the glue that holds the entire project together. 

Job Description

From the time a client initiates a request from the ad agency, up until that campaign is live and the results are being collated, the account executive facilitates the exchange of information between the agency and the client.

They will be at the agency before everyone else, to ensure that the client's calls are answered, and will often be at the agency long after all other departments have left for the day, for the exact same reason. Clients have demands, and the account executive must be there to take care of them. The account executive must also be on top of the timing of every project, meeting crucial print and broadcast deadlines. 

Great account executives will often be put on two or three different clients at one time, which can cause untold stress if the AE in the role is not adequately prepared. However, an account director will be overseeing the bigger picture, ensuring that an AE is not overwhelmed to the point of burn out. But it is for this reason that seasoned, professional account executives can earn big salaries, and can go on to become partners in advertising agencies. 

Salary Range

The figures vary greatly.

An entry-level account executive could earn between $20,000 to $30,000 in the first few years. However, once established, an AE can expect to earn a median income of $93,181, with the low end being $67,357, and the high end being $185,868. For those with the skills and determination, it can be a very lucrative career.

 
Special Skills

  • Ability to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing
  • Must be well-organized
  • Excellent people skills and the ability to work with a wide range of people
  • Professional appearance and persona
  • Working long hours, especially under tight deadlines
  • Travel to the client may be required
  • Must be able to handle pressure well

Education and Training

A typical account executive will have a 4-year college degree in one of the following fields:

  • Advertising
  • Communication
  • Journalism
  • Business administration
  • Marketing
  • Finance/accounting
  • Economics

Many advertising agencies these days look for candidates with a master's degree in those fields, which is a result of increased competition for the job, and a flooded marketplace. 

Typical Day

To be fair, when working in advertising there is no "typical day," as it is an industry that has daily, if not hourly, challenges and emergencies. However, a typical working month for an advertising account executive will include the following duties:

  • Meeting with clients often to discuss current and future projects with the advertising agency
  • Writing creative briefs for the creative director and his/her department
  • Formulating advertising and marketing strategies
  • Defining advertising budgets for the client
  • Presenting findings of client meetings to the agency
  • Presenting creative work to the client, including new business pitches
  • Day-to-day administration duties and tasks
  • Writing detailed reports for the client and the agency
  • Organizing and leading focus groups and brainstorming sessions

Getting a Job

Make no mistake, this is a tough business to break into. Even with a bachelor's or master's degree, you will be up against some very stiff competition. If you're in college, interning at an ad agency will help you get your foot in the door and give you experience you can use on your resume for other agencies.

If you have no formal education, you can begin working at a smaller ad agency in another role, such as an administrative assistant or other entry level position. Just be sure to let your boss know that you want to learn other facets of the industry so you can begin learning how the various positions in the agency work together.

Fringe Benefits

The days of Mad Men may be far behind us, but the fringe benefits of being an account executive are not. You can expect to travel a lot to attend print and video shoots, and this includes both national and international destinations. As an account executive, you must manage both the client and the creative teams, so your role is vital. You will also be invited to endless client functions, as well as creative and agency events, so you will have a full calendar. And of course, the salary is excellent.