Advertising Agency Roles: What Can Each Agency Expert Help You With?

A group of people around a desk in a modern office looking in camera and representing different advertising agency roles

What is an advertising agency (types)

Before explaining all the different advertising agency roles out there, it’s first important to explain agencies in general. Who could understand it all? You are clearly here because you are considering hiring someone to help your business. Whether you need to start a marketing campaign, build a website, or would simply like to learn from someone with some first-hand knowledge. It can be a tough challenge to manage all those classifications and titles of all sorts of different experts throughout agencies. The emergence of digital marketing didn’t help either. With the new technology, new experts are made, which complicates things. But don’t worry; you’re at the right place to clarify things and understand agency classification and roles much better.

Full-service (digital) Agency

Full-service agencies are capable (and willing) to handle a project from its beginnings to its final result. These are usually bigger agencies with different departments and different professionals. If a full-service agency has that “digital” prefix, it means it specializes in digital projects and lacks some services, such as media buying, TV commercial production, etc. Kontra was a full-service digital agency until it developed and became a full-service marketing agency with a full sense of that meaning.

Photo of a modern advertising agency office

Design Studio

This term often means that everyone from this company will probably be working on your project. Design studios usually have a distinctive artistic style in their work, and if you like it (based on their previous work) and you think it will fit your brand, a design studio is a way to go. A design studio puts an emphasis on art in design, while an agency focuses primarily on solving a business challenge.

Digital (Advertising/Growth) Agency

This type of agency is dedicated to digital advertising, including meta advertising, Google ads, analytics, etc. If you want to work with this type of agency, you will probably have to do some creative work with another agency or by yourself. Of course, it depends on what you need and what you’re trying to advertise.

Web design agency

I think this one pretty much explains itself. Once your website is up and running, you will probably part ways with this type of agency apart from maintenance.

PR and/or event agency

Some people say that PR is part of marketing; others say it is its sibling. Basically, a PR agency builds relationships between a person or a company and the public to improve their perception. PR agencies sometimes use events as one of their tools or services, but not all events are PR events. Much like a web design agency, the name “event” agency pretty much describes itself.

Creative agency

These types of agencies pride themselves on their creative work. However, they usually lack some digital services in their portfolio, such as digital advertising, web design, or other technically heavy-duty services.


There are many more descriptions, but these are some of the main ones. If you are unsure which service you need to achieve your goals, your safest bet is to talk to a full-service agency or ask someone from the marketing industry you trust. They will probably have someone to recommend as well, in addition to pointing you in the direction of the right agency.

The Seniority

Before we start describing all advertising agency roles one by one, it’s probably important to mention that almost all these roles have a seniority level adjacent to them. Now, every agency has its own organizational structure regarding who outranks whom, but it is simple to understand that a mediator is above a junior, and a senior is above both. And by above, I mean knowledge, experience, pure time spent in a role, etc.

3 women with diferent advertising agency roles at a desk, and one's holding a big camera

While we were at it, I had a mental dilemma about seniority and who was the best to work with. If you don’t think about it, the logical answer would be a senior. He is a senior for a reason, after all. But I think it’s not that simple. For instance, a junior might lack some experience, but he might offer a different perspective on things. Have fresh ideas and energy. Maybe even the need to prove themselves to the client and to their superiors. (S)he might be willing to go that extra mile for you, and you, as a client, might get more than you expected. Also, not to be disregarded, a junior is always more affordable than a medior or a senior. Medior, on the other hand, might be the best of both worlds. He is an experienced professional, not as pricy as a senior, and he might also be trying to catch that senior pay grade, and your project might just be the one he does it on. Are you still certain a senior is the only way to go?

Advertising agency roles

Now that we’ve established some differences between agencies, it’s time to see what each person inside an agency does. This part is useful to marketing managers and some marketing beginners to see in which direction they could develop their careers.

Account/Project Manager

In a full-service marketing agency, there are both of these advertising agency roles. The word “account” basically means a client, advertiser, or buyer of marketing agency services. For instance, David Ogilvy would say, “That was back in 1981. when we won the Dove account” (year not necessarily correct). So, what does an account manager do? The person is the communication bridge between the agency and the client (or the account). A great account manager should have both soft skills. At Kontra, we say that scenically, if you run into your clients on the street, you should take them to the nearest bar counter or a restaurant and have a quick chat. It’s about making your client feel special and important because every client is. Also, if the team working on the account makes a significant mistake, an account manager should be able to straighten things out. We are all humans, and we make mistakes. it’s up to the account manager to make the aggravated client see that and not make any rushed decisions. On the internal side, an account should be able to get a hold of every project and keep everything at bay:

  • The flow of information
  • Budgets
  • Reports
  • Quality of delivery
  • Deadlines
  • Invoices

Apart from these soft skills, a great account manager should also be a good strategist. She or he should talk to other team members, especially strategists, to find their client’s best and most viable options. Whether it be to raise the advertising budget, suggest media buying for a TV or a billboard, or even some innovative media types/placements. The project manager should also do all of these things for more technical projects, such as creating a website or building an app. A project manager should handle the general concepts of project terminology quite well. She or he must be able to talk to developers and designers, understand them, and translate all of those terms to the client. A great project manager also understands the impact on the client’s business and the project he manages.  If you want to learn more about how to become a project manager or a PM, don’t hesitate to download our free ebook on that topic.

Content manager/Writer/Coordinator

One of the most mentioned words in the realm of digital marketing is content. You might have heard that one saying, “Content is king.” If content advertising agency roles are mentioned outside of the contest, it’s somewhat harder to assume exactly what a person does. For instance, a content writer is a person who generates content for a website – whether it be content for a blog, other content on the website, or even for social media. Unlike creative writers who write catchy headlines and usually use shorter forms, content writers must also watch out for the “technical” side of writing regarding SEO optimization, UX, etc. A great content writer knows how to write a text for a human and a robot. Another important skill for a content writer is the ability to research the f**k out of a topic. For example, if you’re writing about medical services and are not a medical professional, you should be able to write for your target audience, provide value, and be factually correct about the topic. A client could provide a content writer with the information, but she or he must know how to approach the subject and process all the acquired information. The content manager or coordinator distributes content to the target audience and manages the team of content writers on the other end. Content can also be in the form of an image, video, or infographic, and a content manager must acquire the required resources to produce that type of content.


Since I became a creative director after being a copywriter, this advertising agency role has a special place in my heart. A while back, I made a LinkedIn post about types of copywriters. It’s in Croatian, but their names are in English, so you will get the picture if you open it. Anyways, as much as some other advertising agency roles, copywriters gained many more different tasks than before.  It is for sure my previously mentioned segmentation of copywriter types is not 100% precise and correct, but it serves the general idea. So, in general, what is common to all copywriters is that they write. But what do they write? They write text with a specific task to stimulate an action from their audience. Sounds simple enough, right? But, when writing your ad, you need to know the product or service you’re writing about, your target audience, the situation on the market, what the competition is communicating, and many other things; this position becomes a lot more challenging. A great copywriter is a master of creative thinking and has to know grammar immaculately. Also, she or he has to know how to communicate complex concepts in an interesting and easily understandable way to the brand’s target audience.

A copywriter depicted by AI

A copywriter depicted by AI

The keyword is sales, so if you are wondering about the difference between a copywriter and content people, A copywriter’s main task is to drive conversions, while a content writer educates, informs, and entertains the audience.

Creative/Art director

I spoke with an older and more experienced colleague from the industry some while ago about this advertising agency role segmentation. Basically, it was an established practice in agencies that senior copywriters become creative directors, and senior designers become art directors. Nowadays, it’s also common to see an art director become a creative director. So, first of all, the difference between those two positions is that an art director determines art direction – essentially, how the project will look. For example, if you’re creating a creative campaign with a key visual or a TV commercial, you want to show 2 characters doing something. It’s up to the art director to decide if those two characters will be real actors, hand-drawn images, AI-generated images, or maybe just two simple squares. It’s up to the Art director to understand the concept delivered by the creative team and to successfully show the visual side of the story a creative team wants to tell. On the other hand, the creative director is included in the project from its start. She or he validates brainstorming ideas and takes care of the entire process, its timeline, and the final result in the shape of a campaign. So, in most agencies, a creative director is usually superior to an art director, but sometimes, art directors are also creative directors, especially in design studios. Also, an art director often heads design and package design studios. If the result of cooperation is a product package or a brand book, a creative director can be a surplus.

AI depiction of a Creative director

AI depiction of a Creative director

When it comes to the advantages one has over the other, a creative director might have the benefit of writing (or selecting) a better headline for the campaign, while an art director can visually showcase her or his idea. However, with AI tools available today, both shortcomings can be overcome. The thing that is certainly somewhat different, and always will be, is the thinking approach, which certainly doesn’t mean either is wrong.

Media planner & Media Buyer

Although media planning seems simple, it’s a science in itself. A great media planner has to have a good grasp of campaign development and all available media on the market. He or she probably spends half, if not more, of his or her working hours on the phone. The role of a media buyer would be much more than walking in a park if budgets didn’t exist. But, unfortunately for them, it’s never so. From my point of view, a media buyer’s main goal and task is to take the available budget and spread it across an ever-growing number of media placements to achieve as much as possible for their client. Apart from these, a media planner must also understand the audience well, especially how the target audience consumes each media channel, and leverage it to maximize the campaign’s success. Don’t get me wrong, these two advertising agency roles are not the same, and each requires a different skill set, but one couldn’t do without the other.

Social media manager

Regarding advertising agency roles, a social media manager is a must-have in almost every marketing agency. Social media have become an unavoidable channel for all the brands around the globe. Although some might argue that the golden era of social media is behind us, those brands that extinguished their SoMe channels have really done it more as a statement. And if you ask me, this statement confirms just how important social media still is. It is true that it takes more every day to stand out on social media, and that’s the reason why you need a social media manager. Sometimes, they are called community managers, and although these two advertising agency roles are not entirely the same, they’re significantly similar. A social media manager’s main task is to manage social media channels for their client. Their job is creating content, communicating with the target audience, and analyzing metrics to improve and optimize social media activities. A great social media manager is someone who follows trends and news and is quick to innovate and propose new things. The best social media managers are sometimes even trendsetters, and they know the brands they work for to the core. Although social media managers sometimes hold on to their jobs, they are usually in entry-level positions, and social media managers often start moving in all sorts of directions and advertising agency roles. This is another reason why a social media manager is in a great position to explore agency life and find a suitable development direction.

Graphic designer

This advertising agency role is named after the profession, and it’s about equally straightforward. From creating social media and campaign visuals to crafting logotypes, brand books, and other graphic materials such as catalogs and brochures, graphic designers are the go-to people. One specific thing I learned while working with about 7 different designers throughout my career is that they don’t like non-designer people to interfere with their work and that they don’t read text. So, one advice for working with a designer is to double-check the textual context a designer uses to create a design around because they probably won’t notice the mistake. Great graphic designers are masters of colors, working with all sorts of different software, but are also creative and innovative in finding solutions in visual communication.

Web designer

In my experience, web designers get along great with graphic designers. They essentially build websites, webshops, and web applications. Although they have some software and design principles in common with graphic designers, their line of work significantly differs from that of a graphic designer. While a graphic designer must think primarily about what their design communicates, a web designer must always keep the fluidity of a website in mind. Other than that, the users interact with web design in a completely different way than they do with the products of graphic design. In a web design agency, one web designer can work with up to five developers regarding workload and project organization.

Web/app developer

The process of creating a website usually starts with the project scope, which is defined by the project manager in cooperation with the client. After that, if the client doesn’t have its content, a content writer or a copywriter creates it based on the agreed scope and website structure. After that step is finalized, a web designer sometimes creates a wireframe to showcase the outline of the website and information structure before the final design phase. Once the design is approved and confirmed, a web developer starts the slicing or developing process. Through that process, a website (or a web app) becomes a functional interface prepared to be shown on the web. Many developer specializations developed as the IT industry progressed, but the main segmentation is on:

  • front-end,
  • back-end, and
  • full-stack developers.
AI depiction of a Web developer

AI depiction of a Web developer

From what developers explained to me, front-end developers create the things you see, back-end developers work on background processes of a website or an app that you don’t see, and full-stack developers can do both.

SEO manager/specialist

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, consists of a group of factors that aim to ensure that a website meets Google’s requirements for having as good and precise information as possible. Essentially, Google values its user experience above everything else. So when you Google something, Google wants you to be as pleased with your search result as possible. Because if you weren’t, you might not come back. From a business point of view, people have been used to searching things on Google for over a decade now. If your business answers someone’s search, you’re automatically in a money-earning possibility. All brands with a successful online presence know that well and utilize it even better. During my lectures, I like to say that a website is like an information-rich business card that is always available to your potential customer. If you have a webshop, your website is like an always-on store window that works even when you’re sleeping. This entire idea is so attractive to businesses that they invest in website building, digital advertising, and SEO. An SEO expert can help you improve your website by finding you on internet browsers and even keeping your potential customers for longer. Because, as you might know, the longer your customer spends in your store, the more likely he will buy something. An SEO specialist uses audits, content optimization, and other analyses to determine what can be improved on the website to rank better among your competition.

PPC/ads manager

Unlike some other advertising agency roles, this one has many names. Some that come to mind are:

  • performance marketers,
  • traffic managers,
  • advertising managers,
  • PPC specialists, etc.
AI depiction of PPC specialist

AI depiction of PPC Specialist

Essentially, people who work in this role are in charge of running digital ads on social media and Google. Besides running ads, they create segmentations in their target audience to maximize the available budget and reach the best possible results according to the up-front setup campaign goals. A great advertising manager is analytical but also thinks about things holistically, using general logic and different perspectives. While good technical knowledge is necessary, it will only get you so far. Everything that happens and that an advertising manager decides to set up on their advertising interface reflects a user’s digital behavior. And while those behaviors are exclusively digital, they come from real life, and decision-making processes are highly connected to events in real life. So, if you want someone to make the most of your digital advertising budget, an advertising manager is the person you need.

Digital strategist

When advertising managers grow up, learn a lot, and start thinking strategically, they become digital strategists. Although it’s one of the priciest services a digital agency can provide, it’s also crucial for digitally based businesses such as web-shop-only brands. A digital strategist will probably pay off if your online appearance brings you at least 40% of your company’s total income. Digital strategist has the ability to run almost your entire online business. A great digital strategist prioritizes education above everything else and is always up to date with their client’s tools, processes, and business surroundings. They mostly work through consulting, analyzing, and guiding while seldom doing operative work like advertising managers do.


In one word—the boss. These positions are commonly known as C-level and the highest advertising agency roles. In agencies, they are often the founders or owners, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Books have been written on what a leader needs to do, but from the agency’s point of view, a CEO’s most important job is to ensure everything works properly. Kontra’s CEO, Ilija, says his main job is to enable people to do their jobs. Apart from that, a CEO should work on business development, which means creating new or improved services and promoting the existing ones. If you ask me, business acumen is far more important for a CEO of a marketing agency than it is to be a marketing expert. They are solving the biggest problems and making the hardest decisions. After all, they are the first in line responsible for the success or failure of an agency.

AI depiction of a CEO

AI depiction of a CEO

In the end, advertising agency roles…

…can hardly be listed in a single blog post so not all advertising agency roles are listed here, and you could probably make an agency dictionary. All the positions would probably make up half of that book. However, these are the main ones and a good start to understanding the differences and main segmentation of advertising agency roles. If you recognize you need help from one or more of these experts, don’t be a stranger. Contact us, and let’s talk.