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Advertising Sales Agents - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Advancement in the occupation means taking on bigger, more lucrative clients. Agents with proven leadership ability and a strong sales record may advance to supervisory and managerial positions, such as sales supervisor, sales manager, or vice president of sales. Frequent contact with managers of other departments and people in other firms provides sales agents with leads about job openings, enhancing their advancement opportunities. Successful advertising sales agents also may advance to positions in other industries, such as corporate sales. In small firms, where the number of supervisory and management positions is limited, advancement may come slowly. Promotion may occur more quickly in larger media firms and in media representative firms.

Advertising sales agents held about 166,800 jobs in 2008. Workers were concentrated in three industries: 33 percent were in advertising, public relations, and related services; about 32 percent were employed in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers; and 17 percent were in radio and television broadcasting. Media representative firms are in the advertising and related services industry. A relatively small number of jobs were found in cable and other program distribution.

Employment is spread around the country, but jobs in radio and television stations and large, well-known publications are concentrated in metropolitan areas. Media representative firms also are concentrated in large cities with many advertising agencies, such as New York City.

Job Outlook
Employment is projected to increase about as fast as average. Growth in new media outlets, such as the Internet, will be partially offset by a decline in print media. Applicants who have sales experience and a college degree should have the best opportunities, but keen competition for jobs is expected during downturns in advertising spending.

Job Growth
Employment of advertising sales agents is expected to increase by 7 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Fast growth in the number of cable channels, online advertisers, and other advertising media will create many new opportunities for advertisers. This growth will be partially offset by the decline in print media, which will decrease the demand for advertising sales agents in these industries.

Advertising as an industry is expected to grow over the 2008–18 period. Changes in technology will create new and more efficient ways for advertisers to reach customers, which will increase the need for advertising sales agents. Growth should be particularly high in online advertising sales, in cable television, and for consolidated media firms.

At the same time, the industries employing large shares of advertising sales agents, particularly the newspaper, periodical, and directory publishing industries, have suffered significant declines in recent years. As a result, there are likely to be fewer opportunities for advertising sales agents within these areas compared to other industries over the next decade.

Although advances in technology have made advertising sales agents more productive, allowing agents to take on additional duties and improve the quality of the services they provide, technological advances have not substantially decreased overall demand for these workers. Productivity gains have had the largest effect on the miscellaneous services that these workers provide, such as accounting, the formulation of proposals, and customer service duties, allowing them to provide faster, improved services to their clients. For example, the use of e-mail has considerably shortened the time it takes to negotiate a sale and place an ad. Sales agents may accomplish more in less time, but many work more hours than in the past, spending additional time on followup and service calls. Thus, although productivity gains will temper the growth of advertising sales agents, who can now manage more accounts, the increasing growth in advertising across all industries will ensure that new advertising sales agents will continue to be needed in the future.

Applicants who have sales experience and a college degree should have the best opportunities. For those with a proven sales record in advertising sales, opportunities should be excellent. In addition to the job openings generated by employment growth, openings will occur each year because of the need to replace sales representatives who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Each year, many advertising sales agents discover that they are unable to earn enough money; as a result, they leave the occupation. Advertising revenues are sensitive to economic downturns, which cause the industries and companies that advertise to reduce both the frequency of campaigns and the overall level of spending on advertising. Advertising sales agents must work hard to get the most out of every dollar spent on advertising under these conditions. Therefore, the number of opportunities for advertising sales agents fluctuates with the business cycle. Applicants can expect keen competition for job openings during downturns in advertising spending.

Including commissions, median annual wages for all advertising sales agents were $43,480 per year in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,750 and $64,320 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,600 a year.

Performance-based pay, including bonuses and commissions, can make up a large portion of an advertising sales agent’s earnings. Most employers pay some combination of salaries, commissions, and bonuses. Commissions are usually based on individual sales numbers, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all sales workers in a group or district, or on the performance of the entire company. For agents covering multiple areas or regions, commissions also may be based on the difficulty in making a sale in that particular area. Sales revenue is affected by the economic conditions and business expectations facing the industries that tend to advertise. Earnings from commissions are likely to be high when these industries are doing well and low when companies decide not to advertise as frequently.

In addition to their earnings, advertising sales agents are usually reimbursed for entertaining clients and for other business expenses, such as the costs of transportation, meals, and hotel stays. They often receive benefits such as health and life insurance, pension plans, vacation and sick leave, personal use of a company car, and frequent-flier mileage. Some companies offer incentives such as free vacation trips or gifts for outstanding sales workers.

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