What is an Advertising Major and is it Right for Me?

If you love figuring out what makes people tick and flexing your creative and analytical skills at the same time, then majoring in advertising could be perfect for you. At its simplest, advertising is about figuring out how to sell products and services to a specific demographic. You need to know who your audience is, their likes and dislikes and what will stand out to them above the plethora of other ads out there. Because of this, advertising requires an interesting mix of creative and quantitative skills.

Here’s are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering an advertising major.

What is an advertising major?

An advertising major blends creative fields like art and design with more quantitative subject areas like psychology. Your course work has both; you’ll take classes like advertising copywriting, graphic design, consumer behavior, advertising sales and advertising research.

Is it right for me?

If you’re still not sure if advertising is the way to go, here are some key questions to ask.

  • Do I like figuring people out and understanding what makes them tick?
  • Am I interested in sales? Do I like figuring out the best way to pitch and sell a product to consumers of any kind?
  • Do I like communicating and working with others? Do I consider my interpersonal skills to be a strong suit?
  • Am I able to take criticism and feedback from peers, professors and professionals well?
  • Do I look forward to interning during college and gaining valuable work experience in the field?
  • Am I able to think creatively as well as quantitatively, focusing on both creative campaign ideas and metrics?
  • Am I just as interested in the ads in magazines, on TV, and on Snapchat as the content itself?

Is an advertising major different from a marketing major?

You might also be wondering how an advertising major differs from a marketing major. While both fall under most schools’ communications departments, they are typically treated as entirely different majors.

What’s the biggest difference? Marketing is about every part of the process of creating and selling a product, from how the product is designed to how it’s packaged, sold and improved for further promotion. Advertising, in contrast, focuses mainly on promotion.

What can I do with an advertising degree?

Advertising majors can go into any number of fields within marketing and communications, including copywriting and product management. They can also be:

  • advertising account executives
  • web designers
  • campaign managers
  • media planners
  • sales representatives

What do people who majored in advertising earn?

Advertising majors typically start off in the $35,000-$45,000 range after graduating from college, but people working in the field of advertising can make well over $160,000 once they’re in managerial and executive positions.

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What Types of Skills Are Best for an Advertising Major?

Advertising may seem like it’s all about creating amazing ads, but there’s a lot more than goes into it than that. What sorts of skills will you need if you want to succeed in your college’s advertising major? Here are the top six skills you need to have when embarking on this major.

Communication skills

Above all, advertising is about being able to communicate thoughts, feelings and emotions to consumers through various mediums, whether that be a television commercial, a print ad in a magazine or a website banner ad.

In addition, you’ll also have to be able to present your thoughts and findings to peers, professors and potentially even clients while in college, so having a strong knack for pitching ideas and explaining your thought process to others is crucial to your success as an advertising major.


Do you have a knack for coming up with wacky ideas and finding outside-of-the-box ways to execute them? Advertising may be the perfect major for you. In your classes, you’ll be able to put your best ideas to the test, figuring out ways to take your concepts from brainstorm to full product.

If coming up with ideas on the spot and tweaking them accordingly is something that thrills you, studying advertising in college is a great option.

Ability to take criticism

Because advertising is a mix of opinions and data, you’ll have to be able to take feedback from peers and professors alike when your idea needs to be tweaked or scrapped entirely. Advertising majors need to be able to run with any idea and also not get too fixated on a particular plan, as things change all the time.

Analytical/quantitative skills

Think advertising is all about making interesting or funny graphics? Think again! Advertising majors not only learn the ins and outs of psychology and design, but they also need to be able to understand how to analyze and interpret data.

For example, what does it mean if consumers are responding to a particular ad? How can that ad be made more effective? What does it mean if it isn’t effective? These are all key questions that need to be answered.

Knowledge of media trends

Since advertising relies heavily on the ability to capitalize on trends, it’s important for advertising majors to be on top of things that are trending in the industry and in the news. In addition to being interested in the types of ad campaigns and news stories that are most engaging, advertising majors also need to have an understanding of why certain things work when others don’t.

Problem-solving skills

Advertising is all about solving two majors problems: First, what are you to convey to your audience, and how does that support or conflict with your audience’s desires? Second, how can you pivot your ideas depending on how your particular campaign is going?

Advertising majors spend a lot of time discussing and working on these two problems across the board, so if you love tackling challenge after challenge, it’s a great major for you to consider.

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Career Opportunities for Advertising Majors

Despite the fact that advertising falls under the umbrella of marketing, it’s actually an incredibly flexible major that can open up all sorts of career opportunities in a variety of fields. Even better? They don’t all necessarily have to have a marketing focus.

Here are some of the many fields where you can use your advertising degree:


Since advertising is part of marketing, most advertising majors will end up in marketing-related roles once they get out into the workforce. Advertising majors can put their credentials to good use as account executives or media planners for a marketing agency, or they can work in more creative roles as art directors, copywriters or event planners. In fact, because of the substantial overlap between these two fields, advertising majors are able to fill almost all of the same roles as marketing majors.


Many advertising majors have found success working for political campaigns and other initiatives surrounding candidates, causes and policies. Knowing how to market a person or cause to a particular demographic is vital in the world of politics, and your expertise will be wildly important if you choose to enter this field.


Many of the skills you learn as an advertising major (figuring out what your audience wants and then designing and presenting a pitch that appeals to them through various platforms) can make you a dynamite member of any sales team. Whether you’re working as a sales representative, a sales operations team member or another role within this field, your advertising background will come in handy.

Public Relations

Public relations is in the same wheelhouse as advertising and marketing, so it’s a natural fit for advertising majors who want to get into the world of publicity. Career options in this field include becoming a PR strategist or account executive, developing and executing strategies to boost a brand’s public presence. Depending on the type of role you choose, you could be working either at an agency or in-house at a particular company.


If your advertising studies had a design component, you could find a successful career as a graphic designer or web designer. Your advertising background will also enable you to not only create beautiful designs but also understand the data and psychology behind why your work will resonate with a particular audience.

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How to Get Into Advertising

If you’re a marketing or advertising major you’re likely thinking about your career path after graduation. To find out more about what it’s like to work in advertising, we visited the New York offices of McCann Worldgroup, one of the oldest and largest advertising agencies in the world and talked to Cristina Pansolini, one of the agency’s brand strategists. During our chat, Cristina shared her insights about the advertising world and offered some helpful tips for how students and recent grads can get started in the industry.

Here are some of the things you need to know about working in advertising.

What is an advertising agency?

“All the ads and commercials you see have an advertising agency behind them,” Cristina explains.“The agency basically helps a brand decide how they want to look to consumers out in the world.” From brainstorming ideas to implementing campaigns, ad agencies are responsible for helping brands discover their unique value and put their best foot forward with consumers.

What are all the different roles at an ad agency?

According to Cristina, there are three main client-facing positions: account executives, brand strategists and creatives. Account executives are responsible for managing the day-to-day relationships with clients, including making sure that timelines and budgets are adhered to and that clients are happy with the results of their campaigns. Brand strategists like Cristina also interact with clients and they’re responsible for helping brands determine how they want to represent themselves to customers. “I help determine the strategy for brands to come to life,” Cristina explains, emphasizing that the process is all about taking ideas and executing them in an engaging, effective way. Lastly, there are creatives, the people responsible for writing engaging copy and designing graphics to capture a brand’s look and feel. Although each of these positions plays a unique role in how campaigns come to life, the interaction between them is what allows agencies to consistently deliver effective, creative solutions to their clients.

What is the culture like at an ad agency?

“It’s pretty casual,” Cristina explains, emphasizing that working at an ad agency is definitely not as fast-paced or exciting as a show like “Mad Men” makes it out to be. “There are definitely no suits and ties though a lot of people care about fashion and are trendy.” As far of the atmosphere of the office goes, that’s pretty fun and casual too. “Socializing is definitely big. We have a ping-pong table and a pool table. And it’s definitely very young. Even the older employees have a young spirit,” she says.

How does a recent grad or college student get a job at an ad agency?

According to Cristina, most advertising executives land their jobs by going the internship route. “I would say that 90% of the people who work here got in through an internship,” she says. The key is to find a good internship and then capitalize on the opportunity by working hard and going the extra mile.

Pro Tip: Timing is also important. Ad agencies like McCann recruit full-time employees from their crop of summer interns and they make sure to hire interns who are recent graduates. “It’s kind of a trail run and they’ll be able to determine if they’re going to hire you by the end of the summer,” Cristina explains. Her advice: Take your internship seriously and make the most of every moment you have there.

Working in advertising is an exciting chance to come up with creative ways for companies to connect with consumers. It’s also an opportunity to work as part of a dynamic team like the one at McCann. If you think a job in advertising might be for you, take Cristina’s advice and test it out by applying for relevant internships in the field. And who knows? One of them might just get you your dream job after graduation.

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What is it Like to Work at an Ad Agency?

If you’re an advertising major or a “Mad Men” fan, you may be wondering what it’s like to work at an ad agency. To find out, we visited the New York offices of McCann Worldgroup, one of the largest and most established advertising agencies in the world. While there, we sat down with Brand Strategist Cristina Pansolini to find out what an ad agency does and talk about some of the most common facts and myths of advertising.

Here’s what it’s really like to work at an ad agency.

Is working at an ad agency a fun and glamorous experience?

According to Cristina, there’s definitely some truth to the “Mad Men” representation of the industry. “I would say the socialization is pretty accurate. Everyone’s hanging out all the time and there’s definitely a creative, fun vibe like there is on the show,” she says. This vibe helps the team come together to brainstorm and develop innovative campaigns for their clients. For a big agency like McCann, this means working on campaigns for clients of all sizes including corporations, startups and everything in between.

How long does it take for a campaign to go from inception to implementation?

Because each campaign is different, it’s important to distinguish the type of campaign you want to create before you can identify the timeline for implementation. Cristina explains that “A brand campaign (which is related to what the brand stands for) can take six months from start to finish.” This includes everything from establishing the look and feel of the brand to creating ads designed to increase the brand’s presence. Product and social campaigns however, are faster to develop. “A product campaign, which is a focus on something specific the brand sells, that can take three to four months to launch, and social campaigns can take anywhere from a week to three weeks,” Cristina says.

How does the team brainstorm new campaigns?

Brainstorming is one of the key parts of advertising and finding ways to do it effectively is really important. According to Cristina, a lot of what makes brainstorming such a fun process at McCann is the layout of the office itself. “We have whiteboards and corkboards across most of the walls and most of the meeting rooms. If inspiration strikes, we just start writing down ideas,” she explains. This makes the process a collaborative one and ensures that brand strategists and account executives are able to work through ideas and presentations as a team, coming up with the best possible solution for each client.

How do you balance working on multiple accounts at once?

One of the challenges of working for an ad agency is balancing multiple accounts at once while ensuring that senior leadership is happy with the results. “Most people work on two to three brands, depending on the size,” Cristina explains. Delivering successful campaigns is all about listening to what the client needs and being able to offer them solutions that will help them put their best foot forward with consumers. Although this may sound challenging, Cristina emphasizes that it’s been a great learning experience and one that has helped her learn the ins and out of the advertising industry very quickly.

Working for an ad agency definitely has some glamorous perks but it’s also a great place to develop new skills and take on interesting challenges. If you think an ad agency job might be right for you, be sure to test it out by applying for paid and unpaid internships in the field. These roles will give you the hands-on experience you need to land your first entry-level job, and will help you determine whether an advertising job is a good fit for you. And who knows? You might just land a job at a great agency like McCann.

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The Ultimate Guide to Interviewing for an Ad Sales Job

Whether you’ve studied advertising throughout your time in college or it’s a field that you’ve recently discovered, if you’re trying to get involved in ad sales you may be looking for advice on how to nail your interview. We recently sat down with Snapchat Creative Strategist Sam Goodman to film a mock interview and get the inside scoop on impressing hiring managers and ensuring that you come across as knowledgeable and confident during your interview.

Here are his top tips for what to do in an ad sales interview.

1. Dress for the company you’re interviewing for

“In any interview situation and especially in ad sales, it can be nerve-wracking to figure out what to wear,” Sam explains. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. “It’s totally normal to email the recruiter and ask them what the dress code for the office is and then get a feel from there,” he assures us. One key thing to note is that ad sales is a casual environment so wearing a suit will automatically make you stand out (and not in a good way). Instead, focus on wearing something that fits into the business casual category such as slacks and a button-down shirt for men or nice pants and a blouse for women.

2. Keep your resume to one page

The second key thing Sam suggests is keeping your resume to one page. “I recommend optimizing the experience you have towards the interview you’re going in for and keeping it within a page maximum,” he says. This is especially important for recent grads who don’t often have significant professional experience. By keeping your resume short and focused, you’ll be helping hiring managers see both your skills and your potential.

3. Keep your “About Me” to under 60 seconds

Being able to give a concise description of your background is a great way to engage the interviewer and give them a sense of who you are both personally and professionally. In addition to telling the hiring manager where you’re from and what you’re studying in school, be sure to offer solid examples and to focus on facts that relate to the industry or to your previous academic and internship experiences.

4. Relate your experiences back to the role you’re interviewing for

Few things are as important during an interview as being able to relate your experiences back to the position you’re interviewing for. This important for two reasons: 1) It lets hiring managers know that you understand the role and have a good sense of how your skills will match the company’s needs 2) It shows that you’re engaged in the interview process and able to talk about your experience in a relevant, articulate way.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions

Asking clarifying questions is another key factor of a successful interview. These types of questions will help you understand exactly what the interviewer is asking and to give answers that will resonate with them. Although asking clarifying questions might seem a bit intimidating, you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. In fact, hiring managers really appreciate it when you clarify the question because it shows that you care about answering the question well.

6. Give examples of how you can manage big personalities

Whether you’re working for an agency or a publisher, one of the main day-to-day challenges of ad sales is being able to manage lots of competing needs and personalities. This is something that Sam asks about when interviewing candidates at Snapchat and a skill he emphasizes as being key to any ad sales job.

7. Make sure your passion shines through

Passion is important for any position, especially a client-facing one where you’ll be serving as the face of the brand. A great way to show this passion is by giving specific examples of things you’ve done to turn one of your visions into a reality. For example, have you developed a specific program at your school to benefit students or led your sorority in fundraising for a charity? This is the time to mention that.

8. If you need more time, repeat the question before answering

Repeating the question back is a great way to buy yourself some time during an interview, particularly if you encounter a question you weren’t prepared to answer. Added bonus: Framing the question clearly in your mind will help you come up with a more targeted, focused answer.

9. Be honest when talking about your passion and excitement for the company

Showing sincere excitement about a company is a great way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a position and to show that you’re a cultural fit for the role. “Whether you’re interviewing at a brand, an agency or at a publisher, make sure you understand how it works so that you can speak confidently,” Sam advises. This will ensure that your passion shines through and that the interviewer knows how excited you are about the role.

10. Do your research and find examples to reference

Doing your research is key when interviewing for any position but it’s especially important for something like ad sales where you’ll likely be asked about specific ads that you think are working well. “If you’re interviewing for an advertising role at any company, you should really be doing a lot of research on the app to take note of advertising,” Sam explains. Another key piece of advice: “You should make note of going into each part of the app and trying to identify advertisements that you can speak to as examples.”

11. Pick a relevant brand and give specific examples of what they do well

If you’re asked to give an example of a company that is doing great things in the digital space, focus on one that is developing innovative campaigns while also building a strong community around their brand.

Pro Tip: Although you may be tempted to offer the brand you’re interviewing with as an example, don’t. This will come across as insincere and also show that you’re not fully up to speed on what’s going on in the digital landscape.

12. Be yourself and show your personality

Being yourself is key in any interaction with a potential co-worker or manager, but it’s especially important during your interview where you’re trying to assess whether the role will be a good fit for you. On the interviewer side, Sam emphasizes that when he interviews candidates for Snapchat, he wants to make sure that he looks for people who will be a good fit for the company culture as well as for the role. “You want to check that this person is going to fit well on your team, that they’re going to meld into the culture nicely,” he explains.

13. Ask questions! Have a few prepared so you don’t get stuck

“Anytime you go into any interview, and especially in advertising, it’s super important to come prepared with a few questions,” Sam says. “Whether it’s about what the daily role will look like or what the interviewer thinks of his or her current role, you need to have a few questions to prompt further conversation and to show that you’re engaged.” When preparing your questions, think about what you’d most like to know about the position or the company and lead with that.

Pro Tip: If you really want to end the interview on a high note, ask the hiring manager about their best moment at the company. This is a great way to get them to reflect on what they love about their job and a perfect way to wrap up the interview.

14. Ask for contact information and send a thank you email

“Thank you notes are probably one of the most key pieces of follow-up to any interview,” Sam says. In fact, thank you notes are a great way to remind hiring managers about your good qualities and to let them know that you appreciate their time. Best of all, thank you notes will make you stand out. “A lot of interviewers and a lot of hiring managers especially focus a lot on the thank you note,” Sam emphasizes. So be sure to send one as soon as possible, preferably the same day.

Interviewing for a position in ad sales is a great way to test out the waters and see whether a career in advertising would be a good fit for you. Although it may seem a bit intimidating at first, by doing your research, knowing what other brands are doing and being confident in your answers, you’ll be sure to nail your interview and maybe even land a job at a great company like Snapchat. One final piece of advice from Sam: Be yourself. “Because that’s who you are and that’s what sets you apart in any interview.”

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