How are advertising agencies structured?

Tue 1 Dec 2020

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in advertising, it’s important to know how ad agencies are structured so you can focus your studies in the right direction. Although they vary significantly in size, most agencies follow a similar departmental framework. Smaller companies may only have one or two employees in each department (very small companies may have a single employee performing multiple roles), while larger agencies often sub-divide their departments. Agency departments work together to perform three key functions:

  • Creative strategy – working with the client to research and plan a campaign
  • Advertising production – creating and developing advertisements
  • Media placement – securing advertising time/space in suitable media


What are the major departments in an advertising agency?

Although the structure may vary across agencies, most advertising agencies have four major departments:

Account Management

The account management/services department is responsible for generating new business, liaising with the agency’s clients, and coordinating internal departments. Key roles include account executives, account managers, and account directors. The primary function of the account services department is to maintain strong working relationships with clients during the process of establishing budgets, writing creative briefs, managing client feedback, and ensuring that the creative work is on brand and strategically focused.

Account Planning/Research

Members of the account planning department use market research to determine the needs and wants of a target market, so they can best promote a product or service. Through a combination of consumer insights, research, and focus groups, researchers and account managers ensure that advertising campaigns are relevant to their intended audience.


The creative department encompasses the teams that produce the advertisements themselves. Vital to the agency’s success, members of the creative team use planning strategy to develop draft ads for clients. Roles within the creative department include copywriters, art directors, designers, photographers, and production assistants, all of whom report to one or more creative directors. The creative director is responsible for ensuring that the final product meets the client’s requirements and is completed on time.

Media Planning and Buying

Once advertisements have been approved by the client, members of the media planning and buying department purchase ad space or airtime and distribute the ads, negotiating prices with media companies to get the best possible exposure to the target audience within their given budget. Typically, the media director oversees the activities within this department.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in account management, account planning, or media planning and buying, an MA in Advertising Strategy & Planning at Falmouth can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of these roles from industry professionals and equip you with the strategic perspective you need to excel at an agency. Learn more about the course content and application process here.


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