The goal of advertising is to communicate the benefits of a product or service to people most likely to be willing to pay for a product or service and in this way people are made aware of choices available to them as consumers.

If you are not one for dull routine work, you will not find a more stimulating and rewarding career than advertising. In this fast-changing world, advertising opens up several dynamic career path opportunities, in which no two days are ever the same.

There are three parties concerned in advertising, namely: the client, usually from the production industry or a commercial firm, who wishes to advertise its product/s or service/s; the advertising agency that launches the advertising campaign on behalf of its client; and thirdly, the media (the press, radio, television, cinema, internet), in which the advertisements appear. In an advertising agency the personnel that attend to the “advertising account” of the client, are as follows:

Client Service: The client service team forms the link between the agency and the client. Depending on the size of the agency and the size of the account, this could be done by one person or by many people. The contact person is usually called an Accounts Executive. It is their important duty to present or “sell” the agency’s advertising campaign to the client, to explain in detail to the client the advantages of a proposed campaign, and make any necessary changes, because the agency must execute the wishes of the client. An Accounts Executive must be familiar with the client’s products, selling techniques, markets, their competitors and advertising policies, in order to be effective, for example, in explaining the advantages of a proposed campaign.

Media Management: This department may consist only of a Media Manager who would cover a wide field, but in bigger agencies Media Planner/s and Media Buyer/s would assist the Media Manager. Media Managers must be conversant with the various types of advertising, namely, through the daily and periodical press, television, radio, bus and bus shelter advertising, pamphlets, Internet and many more. Media Planners organise and purchase Advertising space on television, radio, in magazines, newspapers or on outdoor advertising. They liaise between clients and the sellers of advertising space to ensure that the advertising campaign reaches the correct target market or audience at the most economical cost, while providing the best possible coverage and reach.

Copy-writing: Copywriters create the words in the advertisements, this can include writing the basic text of an advertisement, finding a catch phrase or coming up with a jingle. While a basic ability to write is a fundamental requirement, copy-writing ability is not always inborn. Hard work and good training by skilled copywriters produce good copy.

Art Direction and Graphic Design: An Art Director heads the creative team and is responsible for all the visual execution. Art Directors design the illustrations and lettering of advertisements and must therefore constantly have new original ideas and ingenuity.

When a ‘brief’ is received, the Art Director and Copywriter work jointly on the basic concept or idea. Most Art Directors at advertising agencies have been trained in commercial art and have learnt how to combine elements of an advertisement for easy reading, to get the attention of and to appeal to the reader.

Graphic Designers in an advertising agency are usually responsible for executing the Art Director’s ideas on paper, designing logos, corporate identities, packaging and label design, editorial or magazine design and layout. Computer knowledge is essential. Both Art Directors and Graphic Designers should possess some knowledge of the various production processes.

Marketing research: Marketing research allows for the understanding of consumers’ attitudes, perceptions and behaviour. Research departments differ from agency to agency. In some instances the department actually conducts surveys through its own field force, but more frequently a Market Researcher’s activities include: arranging for the testing of concepts and advertisements that the agency is producing; consulting clients and other agency personnel on research requirements; briefing research institutions on research products and then implementing, overseeing and reporting on the final study; analysing and interpreting research data and reports; conducting desk or secondary research from existing sources to develop advertising plans.

Advertising people usually work indoors, in well-lit offices and studios and sometimes hold meetings in clients’ offices. Therefore, at least some travelling is involved with some of these careers.

Personal Requirements

Accounts Executive:

  • have initiative
  • maintain pleasant relations with all contacts within and outside the agency
  • know how to satisfy the agency’s clients
  • be very alert as to developments in the advertising field

Media Manager:

  • have ingenuity
  • able to think dynamically
  • sensitive to economic considerations, not only of clients, but also to the general economy of the country
  • able to work with figures in a creative environment


  • have an appropriate writing or journalistic-type background
  • able to solve problems

Art Director and Graphic Artist:

  • have had some artistic (drawing) experience
  • be adaptable and able to visualise selling different kinds of products graphically

Market Researcher:

  • have natural curiosity
  • be attentive to detail
  • have an ability to be objective
  • be both numerate and literate
  • have excellent communication skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Art or a related subjects is highly recommended
Recommended subjects: Visual Arts, Design Studies, Engineering and Graphic Design


  • An art portfolio is required to demonstrate your creativity, abilities and commitment.
  • If you intend studying towards a degree in Fine Art at university, you will need to a Bachelor's pass in matric. If you intend studying a diploma in an art-related field, then you will need a Diploma pass in matric.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university or requirements set by the college.

What to Study

Computers are being used more and more in advertising agencies, for example for media planning and graphic design work, thus in many cases computer skills are now becoming a pre-requisite.


Accounts Executives usually have at least a B degree in Art, Psychology and/or Economics and Marketing

Market Researchers often have B degrees in Marketing, Economics and/or Sociology and some universities offer degrees majoring in Market Research - UNISA for example.

Art Directors and Artists can qualify with a BA degree in Fine Art e.g. RU, UJ, US, UFS

Copywriters sometimes have a B degree majoring in Journalism or Communication Studies - UFS, UNW, Monash, UKZN, UCT or a B Journalism - UJ.

University of Technology: Artists usually have at least, a three-year N.Dip in Fine Arts or some other qualification in art. - e.g. DUT, TUT, VUT. Copywriters sometimes have qualifications in Journalism such as an N.Dip: Journalism. Marketing diplomas are offered at most universities of technology, some specialising in advertising and others in marketing. Specialised diploma course, such as Media Studies - Boston City Campus

The AAA School of Advertising, and Vega School of Brand Advertising, for example, offer a range of specialisation options from short courses to degree studies.

Except for educational training, almost all other practical training is usually obtained in-service with an advertising agency or similar organisation.


  • advertising agencies
  • in-house marketing departments of large firms
  • production companies
  • design studios
  • research companies
  • media owners, i.e. radio stations, newspapers, etc.
  • self employment - if you have the necessary knowledge and experience, you can start your own advertising agency

Further Information

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB)
Tel: (011) 463-5340

Association for Communication and Advertising South Africa
ACA House
The Braes Office Park
cnr William Nicol Drive & Bryanston Drive
Bryanston, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 781-2772

Getting Started

  • arrange to meet with an advertising manager and people in advertising agencies and speak to them about the possibilities in this career
  •  try and arrange to spend a day or two, at least, in an advertising studio to observe the path in advertising that you are interested in

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Advertising as a career


A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer