Agency sizes, structures, departments and salaries

Agency structures may change with some regularity, depending on client needs and the best way to organise the team in response to the changes in the industry.

One of the best ways to understand how the advertising world functions is to understand how an advertising agency works. There are many different types of advertising agencies. Some have hundreds of employees, whereas others will have just a handful.

Inside the Ad Agency

    How many kinds of agencies are there?

    The services offered by the ad industry can be divided into four categories:

    • Strategy – consulting, planning and research services
    • Design – visual, UX, photography and video services
    • Technology – engineering, data and system services
    • Advertising – promotions, PR and Marketing

    Some agencies will specialise in one area and others will incorporate all or one or two. Some typical types of agencies are listed below but this is by no means an exhaustive list.


    Whatever the structure of an agency, we do know that collaboration across the business, with other agencies and clients is key, as this is how the best work is created. All of the teams need each other, as without each other, nothing would be created and delivered to the client. Agency structures may change with some regularity, depending on client needs and the best way to organise the team in response to the changes in the industry.

    Integrated Ad Agency

    An integrated advertising agency offers a comprehensive range of services that address both the traditional and digital marketing aspects of a business. Integrated ad agencies are made up of a broad team of experts, and they offer a one-stop shop of services:

    • Ad Campaigns across TV, Cinema, Radio, Print, Mobile and Internet
    • Strategic Planning
    • Media Planning and Buying
    • Social Media Management
    • Content Creation
    • Web Development
    • SEO
    • CRM
    • Graphic and Visual Design
    • Lead Nurturing - New Business and PR

    Digital Ad Agency

    A digital advertising agency specialises in all things online. They probably have familiarity with traditional media, but their primary focus lies in the digital space, including:

    • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
    • Social Media Marketing
    • Website Design and Development
    • Data Mining
    • Email Marketing
    • Account Based Marketing
    • Marketing Automation

    Social Media Ad Agency

    Social media ad agencies focus purely on social media. They are a team of content creators and ad optimisers that will make the most of a client’s social channels. They may focus on many social channels or be experts in particular single channels, such as LinkedIn. 

    Branding Ad Agency

    Branding agencies specialise in branding. They’ll usually conduct thorough market research to better understand the competitive landscape and offer a range of services that include logo design, brand name development, creative identities and signage.

    Creative Ad Agency

    Creative agencies focus on the big creative idea and executions. They focus on creating a strong message that pushes brand boundaries that resonate with consumers.  

    Media Buying and Planning Agencies

    Media buying and planning agencies focus on research to gain valuable insights into the daily habits and media moments of a target audience and then design a media plan to suit, within the budget provided.  Media plans cover an array of different media (TV/Video, magazines, online and more) and platforms (Facebook, YouTube, ITV etc) depending on the client’s needs and budget and, more often than not, will involve programmatic media buying. This is the data-driven process of purchasing digital ad space at large scale, with the help of automated software based on complex algorithms. A complex and exciting environment.

    The life of an advertising campaign

    ... and all the people who work to achieve it.

    Here is a very basic advertising process that can help demonstrate the stages an agency goes through to create an advertising campaign for a client. This may help you understand the roles everyone plays in getting the ad made and reaching the right audience.


    Download diagram

    Agency departments

    Client Services

    The client services team or account handlers manage the external relationship with the client. They are good at asking questions to understand what the client needs. They also manage the matrix of relationships within and across the agency to make sure that the client’s needs are met. They may also identify further areas where they can add value. They are interested in the client's business and industry sector and are considered to be a trusted advisor.

    Account Planning

    Planners are the strategic gurus of the advertising world. They examine consumer behaviour and the theories and methods for the advanced analysis of consumer markets. This intricate research and planning work will eventually be consolidated into a detailed brief which the creative team uses as a guide when producing innovative and effective advertising. In larger agencies, there is a separate department for planning which consists of account managers and researchers. In smaller agencies the planner is combined within client services. You can spot them as they ask "why" a great deal and use words like ‘semiotics’. These big and curious brains are a vital pivot between the client’s business and marketing goals, ensuring communication is designed to meet these needs.

    Social media

    The social team support the on-line communications with social media strategy and execution for the client/agency’s (global) social media channels. This role develops and grows the global communities on these channels with strategic recommendations and strong creative content.

    New Business (+ Marketing and PR)

    These roles work closely with PR and marketing to build agency profile, generate leads, develop networks and drive pipelines to help the agency grow. Business strategy may include an outbound strategy to generate business opportunities, such as holding events, entering agency work for industry awards or working with the PR team to generate profile for the agency and their clients.

    HR Business Partner

    The HR business partner provides HR operational support to people managers and employees across the agency. They work on employee relations, employment law, payroll, benefits, organisational change and people processes such as welcomes and appraisals. They may also have responsibility for the learning and development of their employees and its evaluation. Depending on the size of the team and the agency, they may have responsibility for a specific client group within the agency. They are a discrete and a trusted confidential advisor.

    Design (Creative Services)

    An ad agency’s creative team (graphic designer/artworker/copywriter etc.) writes and creates the actual components of the promotional collateral such as TV commercials, outdoor posters, web advertising, direct mail or any mixed media combination. They are supported by project managers, producers and art buyers who manage production schedules, liaise with clients, negotiate licensing terms and look after budgets etc.


    Content Producers / Production / Project Managers (Creative Services)

    Producers are involved throughout the creative process, from concept creation through to the final output. They manage multiple relationships within the agency and have technical know-how of how a film/photography shoot works. They are involved with casting and working with film makers and crews. They are a trusted advisor to creatives on recommended directors, photographers, illustrators, animators.

    They balance the creative development with managing budgets, negotiating fees with the production company, checking the legals around music and artist contracts. Once the film, images and creative content has been made, they also manage the post production to get the right finished product.

    They attend shoots with the client and ensure that every stage is as discussed and agreed at the pre-production meeting (PPM).

    Media Buying/Planning

    Advertising departments and agencies need to get their product in front of the consumer, a task often done by purchasing print media, radio, television or internet media spots. Media buyers (and planners) need to understand what opportunities are available across the country and often globally, the return potential for each media investment and which media approaches align with the client’s goals and values.

    The media buyers work with a media plan and are strong negotiators and comfortable with numbers. They will also monitor and review the impact of their media plan.

    Digital Developers (AI/VR/JAVA/UX/CX)

    The digital development team are tech experts who design, develop and maintain websites and other online applications or services. Strong skills in front-end web development and UX and knowledge of information architecture and design interfaces in technology are the order of the day.


    The Finance team provides support in maintaining and delivering accurate and timely financial information, following internal controls and processes to help the finance team meet reporting deadlines. The Finance Assistant provides transactional support to the Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable functions and performs ad hoc requests from the finance team.

    Advertising salaries

    Technically, there are no official salaries within the advertising industry.

    However, according to information collated by the IPA, there is a typical range of salaries that can be used as a guide.


    £14,000 -



    £28,000 -



    £36,000 -


    Business Director

    £51,000 - 


    Head of Department

    £60,000 -


    Exec Management/C-suite



    Salaries vary across the UK. Your location and the size of the company you work for will factor into remunerations.

    Progression through the ranks can be fast. Typically, an account executive moves up to account manager level within a two-year period or less.

    Twenty-nine per cent of employees at executive management /C-suite level are aged 40 or under.

    Source: IPA Agency Census 2020

    Last updated 01 May 2024