How To Get a Job At A Creative Agency: Top Tips from an Account Director (2022)

The below ‘How to Get a Job At Creative Agency’ post interviews Senior Account Director Gareth, 35, who works at a global advertising agency in London.

In this insightful interview he talks about:

  • the degree he did in uni and why
  • how he got into advertising
  • the % of what he learned in uni he uses in his job now
  • what he would do career wise if he was 18 again
  • the jobs since he graduated; the hours, the stress, the parties
  • what he likes and dislikes about his job
  • his advice on how to get into advertising
  • what gets you further in your career

How To Get a Job at a Creative Agency: Background

What is your degree in?

Bachelor of Business Studies (Marketing)

Why did you do the degree you did?

I did economics as an A level, and found it very interesting; demand and supply, how that applies to people making decisions.

There were modules in my economics course about marketing, brands and creating a want and need for a product, which I really liked.

There was a course in Brighton that was business studies with marketing, so there was a bit of a balance.

I wasn’t doing just marketing and putting all my eggs in one basket.

How To Get a Job At A Creative Agency: Top Tips from an Account Director (1)
Why did you embark on a career in advertising?

My degree was a sandwich course, for the third year I did work experience with a famous luxury goods company in London.

I worked in the marketing department; my boss told me if I managed to get all my work done, then I could go and get involved with the really cool stuff.

(Video) Account management tips from a global ad agency Account Director, with Faizan Ali

So, I used to get all my work done by Tuesday, and then spend the rest of the week speaking to the new product development guys, hanging out with the PR girls, seeing how the adverts are made.

That work experience was amazing!

I asked the advertising guys and account managers what their roles were like, and what their jobs entailed.

That gave me such great insight into a career in advertising.

I couldn’t recommend work experience enough to young people these days.

What percentage of what you learned in university have you used in your day-to-day roles?

50% or 60%, I picked my modules to align with what I wanted to do after university.

I was quite lucky I figured out quite early what I wanted to do.

How To Get a Job At A Creative Agency: Top Tips from an Account Director (2)
With the benefit of hindsight, if you were 18 again now would you do anything differently degree-wise?

I always liked drama and acting.

Where I grew up, it was quite poor.

I always thought you had to be from a wealthier background to be an actor or performer, as you wouldn’t always have money coming in, etc.

(Video) How to be a great agency account director, with Sarah Deakin & Ruby Beagan

I was a bit risk averse and didn’t want to take a chance.

If I could go back now, I’d maybe follow my passion a bit more. That would be the one regret I have.

How To Get a Job At A Creative Agency: Top Tips from an Account Director (3)

How To Get a Job at a Creative Agency: Jobs You have Done Since You Graduated

What are the jobs you’ve done since graduating? And what have they entailed?

2014 – Present

Senior Account Director, Advertising Agency, London

Delivering several different campaigns, keeping the wheels moving on all accounts.

2011 – 2013

Account Manager, Advertising Agency, London

Starting to manage campaigns and getting my own clients to manage.

2007 – 2010

Account Executive, Advertising Agency, London

(Video) What can creative agency account managers learn from an account manager in the software industry?

Entry-level position, helping the account managers and directors with admin.

What are the things you most like about your career in advertising, and the things you don’t like?


  1. The variety. I’ve worked on 6/7 accounts in 10 years. Every time you get a new account, it feels like you’ve got a new job.
  2. Working in a young creative environment – advertising is young and vibrant.
  3. The money – you get paid quite well.
  4. You get a lot of responsibility at a young age. When you are 24/25 years of age, you are responsible for budgets of £1m.

Don’t like:

  1. A career in advertising is very long hours. Very rarely can you meet a friend on a Tuesday or a Wednesday evening as you are working. It’s 9am – 7/8pm, it can be 10-11 hour days.
  2. The client fatigue – some clients change things so much that it’s not even the idea anymore. On the agency side*, you are constantly selling, trying to please people rather than being the decision maker.
  3. The career progression. On the agency side, the 40-year-olds still do the long hours and stressful days, whereas on the client side the big bosses just do 9-5. It’s always a treadmill in advertising – I’m not sure it ever slows down much on the agency side.

(*A marketing brand manager will tell the advertising agency what they want the advert to look like. The agency then must meet their expectations.)

Which would you prefer to work for: a small company or a big company, and why?

I started off with a small independent, and it was great. Then I moved to a bigger agency and found it was tough to get things done.

Have pursuing a career in advertising meant working long hours over the years?

Yes, most people would say a career in advertising is a lot of fun, it’s the people you meet.

Also, clients would stab each other in the back as there is only one brand manager role in their company for that brand/product.

In advertising agencies, it’s much more of a family that tries and help each other.

If someone wins a pitch, we all go out for drinks; there is a nice feel to working in an agency.

If you could start over and you were 22, but you know all you know now, would you do anything differently career-wise?

I might have tried to get into the creative side.

(Video) How Do You Structure a Creative Agency?

When creatives start off, they must do a lot of interning, and create a portfolio of their work.

It’s a lot tougher than getting a planning or account manager role.

So, I might have tried to go more creative, but it’s not easy!

How To Get a Job at a Creative Agency: Advice for Young People

What advice would you give a young person who wanted a career in advertising?

– Think about what you like. You don’t want to end up studying something that you are not interested in. Think about what you might enjoy doing and go get work experience to test and see whether you do like it.

– A lot of the young ones we take in are A level students, who are on their fifth work placement in five weeks! When I was their age I was spending my summers in Ibiza; they are way more on the ball than I was!

– Some of the interns that work for us are not very good. I encourage them to go on holiday and enjoy themselves!!

How To Get a Job At A Creative Agency: Top Tips from an Account Director (5)
What gets you further in your career – knowing people or being good at your job?

You must be good at your job.

Look at me I didn’t know anyone; I was a scumbag working-class boy from Wales!

Going to those graduate assessment days, they were all really posh kids. I remember thinking I’m not going to get far here.

Starting out, I went knocking on doors and started in a small agency and worked my ass off, and I’ve done pretty well!

(Video) Creative Insights: The role of an Account Director | Viktor Bezic

If you found the aboveHow To Get A Job At A Creative Agencypost helpful and want more, check out the advice of 100 graduates 10 years out of university in my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’.

You can get the free ebook versionhere.


What does an account director do in a creative agency? ›

The Account Director leads a client account, or set of accounts, within the agency, ensuring that they are profitable, and growing. They take responsibility for the delivery of quality creative work that meets the client's needs and addresses their business problems, and must champion that work.

Which skill is required for people working in the creative department of an agency? ›

An impressive conceptual outlook and ability to produce original ideas. High-level creative thinking and the confidence to use it. Multiple disciplines embracing the various roles required throughout a project. Strong experience in relevant fields.

What makes a good senior account director? ›

To become an effective account director, it's important to develop strong communication skills and be able to work well with people from all walks of life. You should also be able to think strategically about how best to meet the needs of both the company and its customers.

What to do if I want to be a creative director? ›

Most creative directors have a bachelor's degree in journalism, advertising, or communications, according to the BLS. Additionally, courses in business, management, finance, computer science, and graphic design can equip creative directors with skills in technology, design, and more.

How much do account directors earn? ›

The average salary for Account Director jobs in London is £52,500.

What do account directors earn? ›

Account Director Salaries in London Area

The average salary for Account Director is £58,936 per year in the London Area. The average additional cash compensation for a Account Director in the London Area is £16,186, with a range from £2,496 - £104,966.

What skills do creative directors have? ›

It's essential that creative directors have stellar communication, presentation, problem-solving and project-management skills, too. Successful creative directors have polished soft skills that enable them to inspire creativity and work well with different personality types — all while juggling various projects.

Who does a creative director report to? ›

These professionals often report directly to CMOs and other directors, and they rely on extensive experience and professional judgment to plan and executive projects. A Creative Director must be a great leader with the ability to maximize the talents of their teams.

What are the 3 most important attributes to demonstrate as an account manager? ›

A successful Key Account Manager is: Empathetic – deeply understand the goals, drivers, and needs of others. Service-oriented – ready to go the extra mile for their clients. Strategic – doesn't get trapped in the weeds, understands the bigger picture.

What comes after senior account director? ›

Senior Account Director + Client Director

The next step after Account Director, is Senior Account Director and Client Director. As the titles suggest, these are senior roles which will take about seven to 10 years to work your way up to.

What makes a good creative director? ›

Good Creative Directors Manage and Inspire Their Team(s)

A good CD creates an environment for their team to think outside the box and produce their best work. Sure, a CD's job includes monitoring the progress of design projects, communicating with clients, meeting deadlines, and ensuring your team co-collaborates well.

Are creative directors in demand? ›

Menlo Park, CA pays an annual average wage of $184,999, the highest in the US. In 2021, women earned 90% of what men earned. California is the best state for creative directors to live. Creative directors are 63% more likely to work at private companies in comparison to public companies.

Is being a creative director hard? ›

Yes, becoming a creative director is hard.

In addition, some formal education and specific skill sets. Creative director roles are about developing creative ideas and project management, using their observations of design, language, and the world around them to understand and take care of their creative team.

What is the difference between an Account Director and an account manager? ›

An account manager, for example, works under an account director. While an account manager may handle several clients and a sales team, an account director essentially manages all of the client accounts, account managers, and sales teams. Generally, an account manager acts as a link between the client and the company.

How much does a PR Account Director make? ›

Roles in the professional services and in London may attract a higher earning potential. Account directors can expect to earn anything in the range of £35,000-£60,000 per annum plus bonuses in some businesses.

What does a senior account manager earn? ›

The average salary for Senior Account Manager is £46,576 per year in the London Area.

How much does a client director earn? ›

The average salary for Client Director is £75,462 per year in the London Area.

What is an associate director salary? ›

The average salary for Associate Director is £78,529 per year in the London Area. The average additional cash compensation for a Associate Director in the London Area is £12,893, with a range from £3,240 - £51,312.

How much do LinkedIn directors make? ›

$323,845. The estimated total pay for a Account Director at LinkedIn is $323,845 per year. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $165,146 per year.

How many hours do creative directors work? ›

Creative directors work about 40 hours a week. It is usually a full-time job, so you will often have to dedicate long hours to each of your projects, often working on more than one at a time.

What is the difference between creative manager and creative director? ›

A creative director is solely concerned with the creative vision of a project and makes sure that all manifestations of an idea stay true to the brand. A creative services manager (CSM) directs creative output for a brand from the early concept stages through to production.

Is creative director a good career? ›

Yes, being a creative director is a good career.

Creative directors generally develop and oversee projects at the earliest stages. They cast vision, form concepts, and pilot design philosophy.

What is higher than a creative director? ›

A chief creative officer (CCO) is the highest ranking position of the creative team within a company. Depending on the type of company, this position may be responsible for the overall look and feel of marketing, media, and branding associated with the organization.

What degree do you need for creative director? ›

A bachelor's degree in graphic design, marketing, or a similar discipline, as well as 7-10 years of experience, are required for creative director training. Graphic design, graphic art, or marketing could all be good majors for a creative director.

What is a creative strategist? ›

What Is a Creative Strategist? Creative strategists develop media strategies, often in marketing departments or for advertising agencies. Job duties include updating ad campaigns based on trends in the industry. They also perform market research and lead focus groups to help narrow the focus of a campaign.

What are the 7 functions of advertising? ›

The 7 marketing functions
  • Promotion. Promotion fosters brand awareness while educating target audiences on a brand's products or services. ...
  • Selling. ...
  • Product management. ...
  • Pricing. ...
  • Marketing information management. ...
  • Financing. ...
  • Distribution.

What is Dagmar approach? ›

The DAGMAR approach advocates a marketing strategy that guides the consumer through four phases: awareness, comprehension, conviction, and action. That path has become known by its acronym as the ACCA formula. The four steps of the campaign are as follows: Generating awareness of the brand among consumers.

What are the 10 functions of advertising? ›

Top 10 Role of Advertising in Promotion of a Product
  • Awareness: One of the important roles of advertising is to create awareness of the product or services such as brand name and price. ...
  • Information: ...
  • Persuasion: ...
  • Attitudes: ...
  • Reminder: ...
  • Brand Loyalty: ...
  • Brand Image: ...
  • Counter Competitors' Claims:

Why would you be a good fit for the account manager role? ›

They should have strong communication skills and the ability to develop relationships with customers. Plus, a good candidate will be able to demonstrate that they can help your company increase revenue, retain clients and encourage new business.

How can I be successful in account management? ›

10 Tips for Successful Key Account Management
  1. 1) Build Relationships That Acknowledge the Whole. ...
  2. 2) Be an Effective Liaison. ...
  3. 3) Understand Who Your Clients Are. ...
  4. 4) Be Proactive. ...
  5. 5) Be Reliable. ...
  6. 6) Lay out Clear Plans of Action. ...
  7. 7) Look to the Future. ...
  8. 8) Individualize Your Service.

What skills should account managers have? ›

Some of the most important hard skills an account manager can possess include a history of meeting and exceeding sales goals, and extensive product knowledge. It's important that account managers have these skills as being able to secure large sales is a huge part of the job.

Is account manager a stressful job? ›

Yes, being an account manager is a stressful job.

In fact, being an account manager was ranked as the second most stressful job, with 73 percent of respondents rating the role as "highly stressful."

What do key account managers look for? ›

When recruiting for a Key Account Manager, look for the following:
  • Leadership. A KAM should be a visionary. ...
  • Communication. This is a big one. ...
  • Business Acumen. Many salespeople are far too focused on closing deals and do not understand broader business issues. ...
  • Relationship Savvy. ...
  • Results Oriented. ...
  • Appetite for Learning.

What is a key account director? ›

They are the permanent contact for a company's most important customers, and build up and expand business relationships and establish a high degree of trust with your key customers.

How many clients should an account manager have? ›

Focused Role: If someone is solely an Account Manager (that is, they aren't also doing fulfillment), they can typically handle 4-8 accounts. If someone is solely a Strategist (that is, they aren't also a day-to-day client contact), they can handle 8-12 clients.

What is the next step up from account manager? ›

Effective account managers may advance on to a senior account manager or account director position, which involves overseeing several account managers. From there, some become a director of account services—a high-level role overseeing an organization's entire account management department.

Where do I go after account management? ›

Here is a list of possible career transitions and similar professions a typical Account Manager often moves into, within or outside their industry.
  • Sales Manager. ...
  • Salesperson. ...
  • Business Development Manager. ...
  • Sales Director. ...
  • Customer Success Specialist. ...
  • Operations Manager. ...
  • Business Development Specialist.

Are creative directors happy? ›

As it turns out, art directors rate their career happiness 3.8 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 17% of careers.

What does a creative strategy director do? ›

As Creative Strategy Director, you will play a pivotal role in isolating strategic territories for creative media - including custom partnerships, content programs, and new data-powered dynamic solutions.

What percentage of creative directors are female? ›

If you think these are givens of the professional design world — think again. In some ways, design in 2020 is still in the dark ages. We spoke with top female creative directors to find out just how dark it is. Fifty-three percent of all graphic designers are women, but only 11% of creative directors are women.

How many years does it take to become a creative director? ›

Creative directors typically spend 5 to 10 years on a creative team before moving up to the director position. They might work as graphic designers, photographers, copywriters or editors, marketing or advertising assistants, artists or similar positions to get design experience.

Who does a creative director manage? ›

A creative director is someone who sets the tone or the trajectory for a project and manages the execution of the project and delivers all creative assets. They lead a group of designers, copywriters, photographers, account managers (and more) in the planning, creation and delivery of a given project for a client.

What does creative director mean on a resume? ›

Creative directors manage the creative team of an organization. A majority of these professionals oversee graphics and art for advertising agencies that create advertising campaigns, publications, entertainment experiences and more.

How can I be a better creative manager? ›

7 Secrets to Being an Extraordinary Creative Manager
  1. Embrace Your New Role. ...
  2. Acknowledge Management Time. ...
  3. Re-evaluate Your Project Load. ...
  4. Protect Project Space. ...
  5. Discuss Communication Channels. ...
  6. Be Supportive, But Set Expectations. ...
  7. Be Supported.
17 Sept 2015

What is the role of a creative director in an advertising agency? ›

They would be involved in every aspect of a collaboration from the idea phase to the execution. During a project, they supervise and guide copywriters, artists, and designers to create a work, such as a website, an advertisement, or an email campaign.

What makes a good Account Director? ›

Empathetic – deeply understand the goals, drivers, and needs of others. Service-oriented – ready to go the extra mile for their clients. Strategic – doesn't get trapped in the weeds, understands the bigger picture. Proactive – doesn't wait to take action, is in charge.

What's the difference between account manager and Account Director? ›

An account manager, for example, works under an account director. While an account manager may handle several clients and a sales team, an account director essentially manages all of the client accounts, account managers, and sales teams. Generally, an account manager acts as a link between the client and the company.

What experience do you need to be an Account Director? ›

Employers prefer that candidates have at least five years of experience as account executives or account managers before they apply to become account directors. You may have a competitive advantage if you have between seven and 10 years of experience.

What is the difference between account manager and project manager? ›

An account manager deals with one or more customer accounts on a long-term basis, while the project manager is responsible for a project, and to delivery it on time, on budget and as defined by the scope of the project.

How do I become a top account manager? ›

What makes a Great Account Manager
  1. They're Communication Pros. Great account managers need to master both sides of the communication coin: listening and speaking. ...
  2. They're Focused and Organised. ...
  3. They're Caring and Passionate. ...
  4. They Get Their Hands Dirty. ...
  5. They're Always Ready to Innovate. ...
  6. They Grow Accounts.

Is account management stressful? ›

Yes, being an account manager is a stressful job.

If that wasn't enough, most account managers' job performance is about finding clients and bringing in money for your company. Therefore, an account manager is usually under a lot of pressure to meet quota, convert quickly, and keep approval rankings high.

Is account manager a high level job? ›

An account manager is an entry- to mid-level employee who is responsible for the day-to-day management of a particular customer's account within a business. An account manager is often more interested in the client satisfaction aspect of a business relationship instead of explicitly trying to generating sales.

Who gets paid more an account executive or an account manager? ›

Account executive typically pays more but there is no way to compare the roles in a generic way.

What is higher than an account manager? ›

Account Executives often have more experience or education, so their salaries tend to be higher than account managers.

How many clients should an account manager have? ›

Focused Role: If someone is solely an Account Manager (that is, they aren't also doing fulfillment), they can typically handle 4-8 accounts. If someone is solely a Strategist (that is, they aren't also a day-to-day client contact), they can handle 8-12 clients.

Is Account Director A sales? ›

Account Directors are usually top-level employees who oversee Account Managers and Account Executives. Account Executives have a sales role and are in charge of acquiring new clients by pursuing leads and helping them sign a contract.

How long does it take to be an Account Director? ›

A bachelor's degree in business, business administration, or related field and at least five years of experience is required to be an account director. You must have excellent organizational, negotiation, leadership, and interpersonal skills.

What is the career path of an account manager? ›

Account Management Career Path

Account managers typically hold a bachelor's degree in business, marketing, communications, public relations, or something similar. Following college, aspiring account managers often start out in either entry-level sales or customer service positions.

Do account managers or project managers make more? ›

As you can see, having a need of more technical and analytical skills, rather than interpersonal ones, project managers have higher salaries (proportionally to the amount of knowledge they need to perform their jobs).

Can you go from account manager to project manager? ›

Having an Account Manager and Project Manager working in unison on the same project provides peace of mind for the client that they'll always have somebody they can contact. If needs be, the Project Manager will step into a client-facing role. And likewise, the Account Manager can step into the Project Manager role.


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