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.
What is the work like?
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 the results.
In some smaller agencies the role of account planner may be combined with the account executive or account management role.
Starting salaries may be around £18,000 to £22,000 a year.
Hours and environment
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.
Salary and other benefits
These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.
- New account planners may earn between £18,000 and £22,000 a year.
- Experienced account planners may earn £30,000 to £50,000 a year.
- Senior positions may command salaries of £70,000 or more.
Skills and personal qualities
An 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.
It is important to have an interest in:
- advertising as a business
- social and cultural trends and fashions.
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 CVs 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.
Entry for young people
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 GCSEs/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.
Entry for adults
The advertising industry is dominated by young people, with around 80 per cent of agency staff aged below 40.
Mature applicants may need previous experience of working in marketing or communications.
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.
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.
- The Account Planning Group (APG), 16 Creighton Avenue, London N10 1NU. 020 8444 3692.
- Advertising Association, 7th Floor North, Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT. 020 7340 1100.
- The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH. 01628 427500.
- Communications Advertising and Marketing Education (CAM) Foundation, Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH. 01628 427120.
- Creative & Cultural Skills, 4th Floor, Lafone House, The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN. 020 7015 1800.
- The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), 44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS. 020 7235 7020.
- The Market Research Society (MRS), 15 Northburgh Street, London EC1V 0JR. 020 7490 4911.
- Key Account Management: The Definitive Guide - Diana Woodburn
- Tips to getting a job in Advertising - The Guardian
- Careers in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations - Kogan Page
- How to Get into Advertising - Thomson Learning
- Working in marketing & advertising - Connexions