Advertising Account Planner

The Job and What's Involved

Account planners set the communication strategy for advertising campaigns. They establish the goals and objectives, target audience, message and tone in which the campaign should be delivered.

Planners define how a particular strategy can help a client add value to their business, and inspire creative teams to create advertisements in order to achieve this. They use research, trends and data on markets, consumers and culture to help them to do this.

An account planner may be involved with a number of clients and/or brands at the same time. It is important to develop a good understanding and identify specific business needs for each one.

An account planner's duties may include:

  • Working with the client to establish their aims and objectives.
  • Analysing existing data, market reports and trends.
  • Developing, managing and analysing research projects.
  • Working with colleagues to develop ideas for a campaign.
  • Briefing the creative team, allowing them to create an effective and well-targeted proposition for the client.
  • Presenting ideas and conclusions to the client.
  • Organising and attending focus groups to do qualitative research.
  • Monitoring the success of the campaign as it runs, suggesting changes and improvements where necessary.
  • Analysing project results.

In some smaller agencies the role of account planner may be combined with the account executive or account management role.

Account planners tend to work long, irregular hours, from Monday to Friday. Some agencies have flexible working hours on the understanding that staff will work late when deadlines demand it. It is possible for experienced account planners to work part time.

Most of an account planner's time is spent in their office, but they also travel to deliver presentations to clients. Some overnight stays away from home may be required.

Starting salaries may be around £18,000 to £22,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most account planners work for creative agencies producing advertising, marketing and digital communication. There are just over 1,000 agencies in the UK. Freelance planners are becoming more common, although to be successful in this generally requires significant agency experience and an excellent reputation in the industry.

Most agencies employ fewer than 50 staff, while the larger advertising agencies employ around 80 per cent of the total workforce. The vast majority of these are in London. Other centres for advertising in the UK include Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester. Competition for entry to advertising is strong.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) runs a scheme between June and September each year which allows students to post their CV's on the company's website. The IPA's graduate recruitment agency factfile lists member agencies with structured recruitment programmes, and is an excellent starting point for those wishing to make a speculative approach to agencies.

Job vacancies are advertised in magazines, such as Campaign, Creative Review, Marketing, Marketing Week, Media Week, and national newspapers. They are also advertised on the IPA website, www.ipa.co.uk, and at www.mad.co.uk.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications to become an account planner, but entrants usually have a degree. The subject is not as important as a creative mind and the ability to show real enthusiasm and aptitude for brands and communication. There are a number of degrees in advertising, but they do not necessarily give applicants an advantage for getting into advertising work.

Entry to a degree is usually with at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. Candidates should check with individual universities for exact entry requirements.

It is highly desirable for applicants to have had some relevant experience. This can be unpaid work experience with an agency or experience in related areas, such as marketing or market research.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New recruits often train by spending time shadowing experienced account planners, while larger agencies often have structured training programmes.

The Account Planning Group and the Market Research Society provide training for new and experienced account planners.

The Communications Advertising and Marketing Education (CAM) Foundation offers broad-based training that can be helpful for people in advertising, including account planners. Study can be full time, part time or by distance learning. It can lead to a Diploma in Marketing Communications.

Account planners are expected to keep their skills and knowledge current by staying up to date with industry trends and standards. Account planners who are employed by an agency belonging to the IPA may have access to their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An advertisng account planner should:

  • Be creative and able to think around problems.
  • Be a rigorous and logical thinker.
  • Have strong presentation skills.
  • Have good business skills.
  • Have good written and spoken communication skills.
  • Be able to work well as part of a team, with a range of people.
  • Have a good memory for facts and figures.
  • Have numerical ability.
  • Have computer skills.
  • Have stamina and drive.
  • Be able to work to deadlines.
  • Have a smart appearance and professional manner.
  • Be persuasive and diplomatic.
  • Be skilled at analysing and making use of research.
  • Have good negotiating skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

It may be possible to gain promotion to senior account planner. Some planners become agency directors. Movement between advertising agencies is common, and it may be necessary to change employer to gain promotion.

Experienced advertising staff may set up small agencies of their own or work on a freelance basis. There may be opportunities to work abroad with agencies that operate internationally.

Get Further Information

The Account Planning Group (APG),
16 Creighton Avenue, London N10 1NU
Tel: 020 8444 3692
Website: www.apg.org.uk

Advertising Association, 7th Floor North,
Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT
Tel: 020 7340 1100
Website: www.adassoc.org.uk

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500
Website: www.cim.co.uk

Communications Advertising and Marketing Education (CAM) Foundation,
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427120
Website: www.camfoundation.com

Creative & Cultural Skills, 4th Floor, Lafone House,
The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA),
44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS
Tel: 020 7235 7020
Website: www.ipa.co.uk

The Market Research Society (MRS),
15 Northburgh Street, London EC1V 0JR
Tel: 020 7490 4911
Website: www.mrs.org.uk

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