Is An Advertising Career For You?

by Cathy Sivak, Contributing Writer

With so many choices, here's help on choosing an advertising career

From printed materials to stadium sponsorships and everything in between, advertising as a key communication tool has become pervasive. As advertising campaigns strive to break through the clutter, career opportunities for those with artistic ability as well as creative mindsets will be in demand.

Advertising students might find careers in print, video, internet and broadcast production areas. "Advertising allows a person to consider virtually every aspect of American business, social culture, technology and many other areas," says Lance Kinney, Ph.D., an associate professor of advertising and public relations for the College of Communication at University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa.

While the creative types who produce the ads, such as copywriters and art directors, perhaps have the most visible jobs in the advertising field, there are many other opportunities, Kinney says.

Careers in account services are on the business strategy side of the ad business, says Kinney. All clients represented in advertising have advertising and/or marketing directors, and every ad that's placed was sold by a representative from the media, he says. Sales promotion, event sponsorship and direct marketing are other advertising areas that can appeal to students with unique skill sets, he adds.

"Those who possess high energy, are success-oriented, money-motivated, thick-skinned and willing to become a student of both journalism and marketing are well-suited to careers in advertising," says Korry Stagnito, Vice President and Publishing Director for Deerfield, Ill.-based business-to-business magazine publisher Stagnito Communications Inc. Each market for advertising will have different needs. Stagnito notes that in the magazine publishing industry, tracks include advertising sales (consumer and business to business, print and electronic), advertising production, publishing management and agency/public relations work.

The publisher acts as the head of a magazine, overseeing all advertising and editorial content. Most publishers in the business-to-business world begin their careers in advertising sales, while consumer publishers can work their way up from either the sales or editorial sides, he reports.

Kinney notes advertising careers tend to be demanding and fast-paced, and could include travel, even in regional positions. "At the highest level, the demands and stresses are just amazing. Ad budgets can be enormous, so there is always pressure for accountability and results," he says.

Advertising Salaries

The pay scale for advertising careers varies by region and by specialty, but on average, those with undergraduate degrees start out in a range of $22,000 to $30,000 a year, educators report. Advertising job seekers with post-graduate educations can command starting salaries of up to the upper $40,000s, depending on experience, experts agree. "Of course, a really exceptional student might land a good job right out of school. I've seen that happen," Kinney says. "As communication skills have become more specialized, so I encourage our students to consider non-traditional communication jobs, as well, including freelance work."

In the publishing industry, advertising sales positions typically receive compensation in a base salary plus commission structure encompassing up to ten percent of ad sales revenue, starting at a range of $25,000 to $40,000, Stagnito says. He notes seasoned advertising sales professionals routinely earn $100,000 or more. Different areas of publishing offer varying salary levels, Stagnito notes. "It's much easier to impress family and friends by telling them that you sell for a well-known consumer magazine. However, it's often more lucrative with more growth potential to be involved in business-to-business publishing," he says.

While salaries in major advertising hubs such as New York City and Chicago can seem high, the cost of living tends to be much higher in those areas than in other parts of the country, Kinney notes. The high dollars in the advertising world are typically made by those in media sales because of its commission system. "The upper limit here is endless. There is always one more dollar to be made at any time. Even modest sales incomes can be in the 40s-50s in 3 or 4 years. But this is a demanding area," he says.

At the highest, national levels, salaries for all types of advertising positions can reach triple digits, Kinney reports. "A few years back, the country's biggest agencies were having trouble filling art director positions that paid 500K. That's because the best art directors in the country could earn more money freelancing. And they could choose their clients."

The current job market is much tighter, but entry-level positions can help recent advertising school grads get a foot in the door at publishing companies, Stagnito says. "Most publishers are always on the lookout for smart, aggressive, motivated entry-level individuals who want to make advertising sales a career. The compensation is relatively low and we don't have to "undo" all of their bad habits," he explains.

Beginning Your Career Campaign

Educational experience such as internships can be key to starting a career in advertising. Syracuse offers many internship opportunities, with about 60 students recently part of an NBC internship covering different venues at the Olympics. "Many of our students do internships. This gets them experience and allows them to meet potential employers," says Kinney.

Beyond searching newspaper ads and major internet job database services under keywords such as advertising, internships and industry organizations can prove to be valuable networking tools. National advertising organizations -- American Advertising Federation (AAF), Advertising Education Foundation (AEF), and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) - are available as a resource to advertising students. These and other professional organizations typically offer both professional and student memberships. Organizations offer data and all aspects of the ad business, as well as advertising award and scholarship opportunities. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) also offers information about art-specific advertising opportunities.

At UA, most of the program's students are active in the university's student advertising federation. "We bring in industry speakers, so they meet professionals and begin making contacts. Our best students network with one another," Kinney says.

As a veteran in the magazine advertising field, Stagnito notes networking can be critical to landing a position. "We have found one of our most successful resources for new employees is referrals from existing personnel. I recommend reaching out to somebody - regardless of their role - who is currently employed with a publishing firm or agency," he says.

While some forecast a gloomy future for print media, Stagnito reports publishers are instead adapting into fully integrated communications companies who are deeply involved in internet, trade shows, conferences and custom publishing. As a result, new opportunities are now available in publishing advertising. "The magazine "brand" and the connection that we have with readers give us the advantage to be successful in many more areas than just print," he says.

Publishers websites can be a source of potential contacts and job leads, Stagnito says, as can local newspapers and their corresponding websites, which also have a need for advertising professionals.

"Careers in advertising can be a great deal of fun. Ad professionals often work with very creative people on the newest technologies available. No two assignments are ever alike, so each day is new," Kinney says. "My best advice is to commit yourself to this demanding field, get involved early and set professional goals. Learn to deal with setbacks and criticism. Advertising is a public business. Everyone sees your work, and everyone is a critic."

Jennifer Chiariello contributed to this report.

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