What do Advertising Sales Agents Do

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents—often referred to as account executives or advertising sales representatives—sell or solicit advertising primarily for newspapers and periodicals, television and radio, websites, telephone directories, and direct mail and outdoor advertisers. Because such a large share of revenue for many of these media outlets is generated from advertising, advertising sales agents play an important role in their success.

More than half of all advertising sales agents work in the information sector, mostly for media firms including television and radio broadcasters, print and Internet publishers, and cable program distributors. Firms that are regionally based often need the help of two types of advertising sales agents, one to handle local clients and one to solicit advertising from national advertisers. Print publications and radio and television stations employ local sales agents, who are responsible for sales in an immediate territory, while separate companies known as media representative firms sell advertising space or time for media owners at the national level. Sales agents employed in media representation work exclusively through executives at advertising agencies, called media buyers, who purchase advertising space for their clients who want to initiate national advertising campaigns. When a local television broadcaster, radio station, newspaper, or online publisher is working with a media representative firm, the media company normally employs a national sales manager to coordinate efforts with the media representative.

Most advertising sales agents work outside the office occasionally, calling on clients and prospective clients at their places of business. These agents may have an appointment, or they may practice cold calling—arriving without an appointment. Obtaining new accounts is an important part of the job, and they may spend much of their time traveling to and visiting prospective advertisers and current clients. Sales agents also may work on their employer's premises and handle sales for customers who walk in or telephone the firm to inquire about advertising. Some may make telephone sales calls as well—calling prospects, attempting to sell the media firm's advertising space or time, and arranging followup appointments between interested prospects and sales agents.

A critical part of building relationships with clients is learning about their needs. Before the first meeting with a client, a sales agent gathers background information on the client's products, current customers, prospective customers, and the geographic area of the target market. The sales agent then meets with the clients to explain how specific types of advertising will help promote the client's products or services most effectively. If a client wishes to proceed, the advertising sales agent prepares an advertising proposal to present to the client. Preparation of the proposal entails determining the advertising medium to be used, preparing sample advertisements, and providing the client with cost estimates for the project. Because consolidation among media industries has brought the sales of different types of advertising under one roof, advertising sales increasingly are in the form of integrated packages. This means that advertising sales agents may sell packages that include print and online ad space and time slots with a broadcast subsidiary. Technological innovations also have created more products to sell, meaning that a local television sales agent might sell ad space on a station’s Web site and mobile service, in addition to selling commercials.

After a contract has been established, advertising sales agents serve as the main contact between the advertiser or ad agency and the media firm. They handle communication between the parties and assist in developing sample artwork or radio and television spots if needed. For radio and television advertisements, they also may arrange for commercial taping sessions and accompany clients to the sessions.

In addition to maintaining sales and overseeing clients' accounts, advertising sales agents' other duties include analyzing sales statistics and audience demographics, preparing reports on clients’ accounts, and scheduling and keeping appointments and work hours. They read about new and existing products and monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors. In many firms, the advertising sales agent handles the drafting of contracts specifying the advertising work to be performed and its cost, and may undertake customer service responsibilities such as answering questions or addressing any problems the client may have with the proposal. Sales agents also are responsible for developing sales tools, promotional plans, and media kits, which they use to help make a sale.

Work Environment

Advertising sales agents held about 115,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of advertising sales agents were as follows:

  • Advertising, public relations, and related services - 39%
  • Newspaper publishers - 11%
  • Radio broadcasting - 10%
  • Television broadcasting - 7%
  • Self-employed workers - 6%

Selling can be stressful because income and job security depend directly on agents’ ability to keep and expand their client base. Companies generally set monthly sales quotas and place considerable pressure on advertising sales agents to meet those quotas.

Getting new accounts is an important part of the job, and agents may spend much of their time traveling to and visiting prospective advertisers and maintaining relationships with current clients. Sales agents also may work in their employer’s offices and handle sales for walk-in clients or for those who call or email the firm to ask about advertising.

Work Schedules

Most advertising sales agents work full time. Some advertising sales agents work more than 40 hours a week. Some work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

Education & Training Required

Although a high school diploma may be sufficient for an entry-level advertising sales position, some employers prefer applicants with a college degree, particularly for sales positions that require meeting clients. Courses in marketing, leadership, communication, business, and advertising are helpful. For those who have a proven record of successfully selling other products, educational requirements are not likely to be strict.

Most training, however, takes place on the job, and can be formal or informal in nature. In most cases, an experienced sales manager instructs a newly hired advertising sales agent who lacks sales experience. In this one-on-one environment, supervisors typically coach new hires and observe them as they make sales calls and contact clients. Supervisors then advise the new hires on ways to improve their interaction with clients. Employers may bring in consultants to lead formal training sessions when agents sell to a specialized market segment, such as automotive dealers or real estate professionals.

Other Skills Required

Employers look for applicants who are honest and who possess a pleasant personality and neat professional appearance. After gaining entry into the occupation, the advertising sales agent will find that successful sales experience and the ability to communicate effectively become more important than educational attainment. In fact, when the agent is selling or soliciting ad space, personality traits are equally, if not more, important than one’s academic background. In general, smaller companies are more willing to hire unproven individuals.

Because they represent their employers to the executives of client organizations, advertising sales agents must have excellent interpersonal and written communication skills. Being multilingual, particularly in English and Spanish, is another skill that will benefit prospective advertising agents as media increasingly seek to market to Hispanics and foreign-born persons. Self-motivation, organization, persistence, independence, and the ability to multitask are required because advertising sales agents set their own schedules and perform their duties without much supervision. Creativity also is an invaluable trait for advertising sales agents, who must come up with new ways to attract clients and to serve existing ones.

How to Advance

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.

Job Outlook

Employment of advertising sales agents is projected to grow 3 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 14,800 openings for advertising sales agents are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020.

Advertising will continue to grow in digital media, including online video ads, search engine ads, and other digital ads intended for cell phones or tablet-style computers. Although advertising sales agents are still needed in digital media, the ability to automate digital ad placement and the use of ad blockers by digital users will limit employment demand for advertising sales agents along these channels.

The decline of print advertising will drive an overall employment decrease for advertising sales agents. Both newspapers and magazines have seen circulation declines that are expected to continue. With fewer consumers viewing advertisements in print media, fewer advertising sales agents will be needed to support ads in these media.


The median annual wage for advertising sales agents was $52,340 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $125,370.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for advertising sales agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Advertising, public relations, and related services - $60,770
  • Television broadcasting - $56,810
  • Radio broadcasting - $47,410
  • Newspaper publishers - $37,270

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 usually are based on individual sales numbers. Bonuses may depend on individual performance, the performance of all sales workers in a group, or the performance of the entire firm.

Most advertising sales agents work full time. Some advertising sales agents work more than 40 hours a week. Some work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

Academic Programs of Interest

As a marketing function, advertising focuses on the promotion of products, services, companies, organizations and ideas through paid media space or time. Advertising media include magazines, newspapers, television, radio, the Internet, outdoor/transit and direct marketing. Advertising graduates find jobs at advertising agencies; with newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations; and in the communication and marketing departments of businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit... more
Marketing is a social process which aims to discern consumers' wants, to focus goods or services toward those wants, and to mold consumer wants toward the goods or services produced. The term includes advertising, distribution and selling of a product or service. It is also concerned with anticipating the customers' future needs and wants, often through market research. more