Before I started working in advertising, I heard about different career paths and didn't really understand what each person did. So here is a breakdown. Heavily skewed by my opinion of course.
This is what I do. My job is to basically figure stuff out. There is a lot of thinking, and a lot of computer work involved. I work with the Copywriter to come up with concepts and direction for each project. Once we decide, she writes the words, and I design the ad out. I also am in charge of hiring photographers, illustrators, motion graphic folks, etc. When filming a TV spot or photo shoot, I am on set giving the thumbs up on the footage or images.
These are my partners in crime. Typically the Art Director and Copywriter work together to get ideas for each ad. Once a few ideas are established, the Copywriter will then write the headlines, body copy, call to action, etc. She sends me a word doc with the copy so I basically have to copy and paste. Beware! Copywriters are sticklers for grammar and proper dashes. Learn the difference between Em dashes, En dashes and hyphens. You will forever be the Copywriter’s favorite.
They oversee the Creative Department. All the concepts/layouts/ideas go through the Creative Director. He will give you the thumbs up to continue working, or the “What the heck are you thinking! Do over!” on the concepts. These guys typically have come up the ranks from being an Art Director or Copywriter. Know your audience. If your Creative Director hailed from the Copywriting side, ten-to-one you can get a better response from your concepts if you also write up a blurb about it in addition to sketches.
Word of advice, make friends. Account managers are essentially the liaison between you and the client. They have to take crap from all sides while maintaining composure. I call these folks, the suits. They meet with clients to maintain a relationship with them, but also can be a strong ally in getting your work through. If the client trusts and respects the Account Manager, you might just be able to sneak a totally epic, on brand, but slightly edgy concept through. However, there is also this never ending war with Account folks. Many agencies have an “us versus them” mentality. Creative folks can feel like the Account team don’t really care about the work but only care in making sure the client is happy. It is a tricky job and I am thankful that I am in the Creative Department (she says wearing jeans and a t-shirt.)
These are min-managers. If you are looking to get a job in advertising but didn’t go the creative portfolio route, check into Account Coordinator positions. This is a great place to start to learn how the agency works while getting your hands dirty. From here, you move up to be Account Mangers.
If you like data, budgets, and numbers this is the job for you. Basically Media Buyers are in charge of planning when and where your advertising campaigns hit the market. They plan out when your TV spot will run and on what channels. They pick the location of the outdoor boards, sites for web banners, and magazines for print. Typically they will put together a media plan and budget for the clients to sign off on. From there, a copy of that goes to the Account Manger and hopefully the creative team.
This person is the spoke of the office. He buzzes between all departments tracking jobs, deadlines, and deliverables. He sets the timelines and makes sure that jobs are completed. This is also a person to befriend. He is the guy you talk to if you are swamped and need to extend a deadline.
Okay, so after the Art Director makes an ad and the client loves it, it then moves to production. The Production Artist make sure that the sizes are correct for the publications, the photos are high-res and color corrected, and ensures that all files are packaged correctly for the publication or printer. He will also take the one ad I made, and spin that out to all different sizes for different publications. Small copy tweaks and minor art changes are also made by the Production Designers.
This person runs the Production Department. He will make sure the ads, TV, web banners, invites, etc. all get out the door on time, and correctly. He also places bids for printing, works with vendors and fabricators, and builds comps and mock-ups if needed.