What Does an Advertising Agency Account Executive Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman standing in the middle of the image with 5 small images branching off of her. They are: "Write briefs, organize focus groups, meet with clients, define advertising budgets, present creative work to clients" Title reads: "A day in the life of an advertising agency account executive"

Image by Alexandra Gordon © The Balance 2019

An account executive, also sometimes called an AE, is a middleman between clients and the creative department in an advertising agency. A great account executive is the glue that holds a project together. 

Account executives facilitate the exchange of information between the agency and the client from the time a client first initiates a request until that campaign is live and the results are collated. Clients have demands, and the account executive takes care of them. Account executives must be on top of the timing of every project to meet crucial print and broadcast deadlines. 

Advertising Account Executive Duties & Responsibilities

There's no typical day in advertising. This industry experiences daily—if not hourly—challenges and emergencies. But a typical working month for an advertising account executive will usually include the following duties:

  • Meet with clients.
  • Present findings to the agency.
  • Discuss projects with clients.
  • Write briefs.
  • Formulate advertising.
  • Formulate marketing strategies.
  • Define advertising budgets.
  • Present creative work to clients.
  • Present business pitches to clients.
  • Day-to-day administration duties.
  • Organize focus groups.
  • Lead brainstorming sessions.

An account director will typically oversee the bigger picture, ensuring that the AE isn't overwhelmed to the point of burning out.

AEs provide a critical liaison between the creative staff of the agency and its clients. They're creative forces, but they're also problem-solvers. A keen ability to multitask keeps everything running smoothly. A great deal depends on the accurate and insightful interpretation of clients' wishes and goals, and transmitting that information to the appropriate staff within the agency.

Advertising Agency Account Executive Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes agency account executives in its data for advertising and promotions managers. Those who work for advertising services are the most highly compensated, however, earning a median salary of $134,780 annually as of 2018. Overall, the median incomes for advertising and promotions managers in 2018 were:

  • Median Annual Salary: $117,130 ($56.31/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $208,000 ($100.00/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $57,150 ($27.47/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Some travel, long hours, and meals on the go can be involved with this job, but few agencies expect account executives to pay the bills for these costs, particularly for travel. Late evening meals might be a perk of employment.

Education, Training & Certification

Those looking for careers as agency account executives should ideally have a college degree and related experience.

  • Education: A typical account executive will have a four-year college degree in advertising, communication, journalism, business administration, marketing, finance, accounting, or economics. Many advertising agencies look for candidates with a master's degree in one of these fields as a result of increased competition for the job and a flooded marketplace. 
  • Internship: Although it's not necessarily required, interning at an ad agency will help get your foot in the door and provide experience you can use on a resume.
  • On-the-job Training: If you have no formal education, begin working at a smaller ad agency in another role, such as an administrative assistant or other entry-level position. Let your boss know that you want to learn other facets of the industry so you can understand how the various positions in the agency work together.

Advertising Account Executive Skills & Competencies

Certain qualities and skills will help you succeed as an AE:

  • Communication skills: You'll need the ability to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing.
  • Organizational skills: You'll be charged with overseeing several projects, and different aspects of projects, so a knack for organization is vital.
  • Interpersonal skills: Excellent people skills and the ability to work with a wide range of people are important.
  • Professional appearance and persona: In many respects, you're the face of your agency.
  • Nerves of steel: You must be able to handle pressure well.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates job growth for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers of 10% through 2026. This is somewhat faster than all occupations, but those dealing predominantly with newspaper publishing might not fare as well because electronic media continues to push this industry aside.

Seasoned, professional account executives can earn higher salaries and can go on to become partners in advertising agencies. 

Work Environment

Account executives travel a lot to attend print and video shoots, and this includes both national and international destinations. They may be invited to client functions, as well as creative and agency events.

Great account executives will often find themselves dealing with two or three different clients at one time, which can cause untold stress if the AE isn't adequately prepared.

Work Schedule

More than 30% of all advertising, promotions, and marketing managers worked more than 40 hours a week in 2016, according to the BLS. They arrive at the agency before everyone else to ensure that clients' calls are answered, and they often are at the agency after all other departments have left for the day for the same reason. Be prepared to work long hours, especially under tight deadlines.

How to Get the Job


The American Association of Advertising Agencies can provide networking opportunities and up-to-the-minute developments in the field.


Workable offers a list of interview questions specific to this occupation.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018