The Biggest Myths About an Advertising Career

Separating Fact from Fiction in the Ad World

Ad Agency


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Like lawyers and tax collectors, advertising professionals have a bad reputation, but that's not always a fair assessment of the profession. People who work in advertising are not all slick salespeople in expensive suits. Careers vary greatly, and the diversity of the people filling those roles is just as rich. 

So if you are considering working in the advertising and marketing industry, familiarize yourself with some common myths and the truths behind those myths.

Myth: Advertising is unethical or dishonorable

Some people believe if you are trying to sell something through advertising that you're trying to trick or deceive the public. The truth is that the last thing an advertising agency wants to do is to harm a client's reputation by producing materials that could be misconstrued as deceptive advertising. Yes, there are a few bad apples out there, but the vast majority of ad agencies are doing everything they can to abide by the many standards imposed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority, among others.

Myth: Everyone makes a fortune

While it's true that you can make a lot of money working in advertising, most people aren't even earning close to a six-figure salary. The majority of people working in the field started at the bottom rung of the ladder, interning for free, possibly even making minimum wage just to get their start in the industry. And some people actually take a job with no pay in the hopes of one day becoming a paid employee.

Myth: It's difficult to get started

There is a lot of competition out there, especially in cities that have a limited number of agencies. However, there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to get started in the field. You can start client-side and move over, which opens up a whole world of different companies for you to start at. You even can work freelance before finding a permanent job.

Myth: Advertising is like public relations

These two industries are commonly tagged as being the same profession. While advertising and public relations can go hand-in-hand, their focus is far different. You can use your advertising skills to get a job in PR and vice versa, but just because you work in one industry does not mean you automatically know everything about the other. Advertising is about selling a product, a service, or sometimes an idea. Public relations is about refining broader communications strategies.

Myth: All of your ideas will be put to good use

There's a certain process for every advertising campaign. Some clients give the advertising agency a basic concept and let the agency run with it. Some leave everything to the agency's expertise. Other clients want to be more involved in the agency process.

In most agencies, you'll have meeting after meeting after meeting about any given ad campaign, no matter what department you're in. You can exercise some of your ideas to an extent, but they may not make it to the client. The idea you throw around in a creative meeting may be the complete opposite of what a client has told its account executive it wants or what was decided in a previous meeting with other execs within your agency.

Myth: You'll travel all over the world

While it's true that bigger ad agencies have clients around the world and that international photo and video shoots are part of the picture, travel is rare for most people. If you're in the creative department, it's likely you will get to travel to shoot your ideas. However, budget cuts often mean fewer people get to go. Additionally, technology has made it much easier in recent decades to confer with clients without having to meet in person. Agency reps can meet with client reps through online video conferencing while everyone reviews the same documents uploaded to the cloud.

Myth: Anyone can get a job in advertising

That all depends on what your definition of "anyone" actually is. In the past, people just fell into advertising careers because they didn't know what else to do. These people had writing backgrounds or English degrees. Today, competition for industry jobs is intense, and to get a foot in the door, a relevant college degree is a must. To get more than a foot in the door, you'll need an impressive portfolio of work, which you'll have to start building during your time as a student or an intern.