Account executive

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Jane, late 20s

What does an advertising account executive or account manager do?

Juggling conflicting deadlines, budgets and priorities of Adland (as the advertising industry calls itself) is all in a day's work for Jane, an account executive. Jane's job is to travel between the two diverse countries of advertising: the 'clients' and the 'creatives'. "I'm like a translator really," Jane says. "My role is to neaten up the client's message and then get the creatives to answer it."

A creative is basically anyone who produces an ad - be it print, radio, television or web-based - and Jane is responsible for getting them to deliver what the client wants. "Clients will say, 'Our target audience is women aged 25-55 who like to buy for themselves and their families,' and they'll have pages and pages of background info. The creatives don't really want to wade through all those pages. They want, 'So what's the one thing I have to say?' Jane refines clients' ideas into one simple message.

From here, the creatives - including copywriters, designers, photographers and film producers - begin making an ad. Once the creative team puts together their ad, Jane reviews it. "I look at it and see if it's answered the brief and say 'Nup, it's not high-energy enough' or 'It's too daggy or too modern for this product', then the creatives get it right and we finalise layout and I send it to the client to approve."

What are some of the pros and cons of being an account executive?

An account executive carries a lot of responsibility in the world of million-dollar TV ads for major Australian and international clients. These clients demand a high level of service, often with half-hourly updates on their campaign, so Jane is used to bringing her mobile with her everywhere. And what about the long lunches schmoozing clients? "Forget about lunch, you've got to pretend you're in the office at all times."

Despite all the stress ("I take executive B stress tablets, because I can't get sick or get stressed"), Jane enjoys her work. "It's a great mix of high energy, lots of variety, really supportive colleagues, plus a promise from management that they would defend us if clients become too difficult."

Advertising's reputation for fat pay packets isn't quite true, as Jane reckons, "It's taken a long time to get to a cash situation that I'm happy with. You've got to be prepared to work pretty hard for not a lot of money - especially when you start out."

How did you become an account executive?

Jane's five-year career in advertising has been unconventional. With two degrees (in Arts and Music) she temped for a while, before finding a job at a small advertising agency. From there, she was "headhunted to work in the marketing department of Blockbuster". At Blockbuster, she got to wear the 'client' hat and had many ad agencies working for her.

While there are university qualifications in advertising, Jane doesn't believe they're essential: "If you can sell yourself based on no qualifications, then you should be this industry."

Jane was lured back to working in advertising again by her current employer, because it seemed like a fun workplace - her interview required her to tell a joke and write her own epitaph. She was surprised how much she enjoyed the interview process. Jane laughs, recalling her Blockbuster days when she was the client: "I remember saying to my boss at Blockbuster just a few weeks before the interview, 'I'm never going back to Adland, it's just too stressful and if all the clients are like us it would be horrible!'"

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).