Creative Careers: Media and Advertising
Traditional media careers involved working in television, radio or print media such as book publishing or newspapers. However, ‘media’ careers are now more broadly defined as any that involve creating and sharing content with the public.
They therefore include traditional media careers, such as those in television or print journalism. However, they also include ‘newer’ careers such as social media copywriting, and other work in marketing and advertising. They therefore cross over into work that is more usually considered part of ‘business’ (and our page on Careers in Business discusses some of these careers in more detail under Customer Communication Roles).
This page discusses careers in media and advertising, including careers in both new and traditional media sectors, such as behind-the-scenes work in television and film. Other creative careers, including performing in television, film, theatre and other performing arts, and design work in fashion and elsewhere, are discussed on our separate page on Careers in the Arts, Crafts, and Design.
Understanding the Media Industry
The media industry used to be fairly straightforward to understand and define. It included television and film, and print media such as newspapers or books.
However, changing ideas (and the advent of the internet) have meant that the definition of media has expanded. It now includes both traditional media and so-called ‘new media’ such as social media, blogs and other websites. Many of these new media enable ‘ordinary people’ to produce their own content (known as peer-to-peer content), and this has changed the media industry hugely.
Crucially, there is now much less distinction between different forms of media. Articles that were nominally written for the print press are published online, and shared using social media. Videos produced for news media are shared widely across platforms. Content is curated, collected and commented on—and this all adds value to it for both consumers and creators.
At the same time, technology has also moved on significantly. Enormous heavy cameras and separate sound equipment are no longer needed to produce reasonable videos. This means that many traditional roles have vanished—or at least, have been overtaken by events. For example, the large crews that once produced traditional television series have been replaced by a much smaller team. It is therefore harder to find work, and far more media workers are now freelance rather than employed.
You can find out more about working freelance in our pages on entrepreneurship and self-employment.
That said, the entertainment and media sector continues to grow—but with much more emphasis on digital content, and especially digital advertising.
In the UK, internet advertising revenue is expected to grow by around 6% each year for the next few years. In an industry that generates just under £100 billion in revenue in the UK each year, around one-third of that revenue comes from digital advertising.
Careers in Media and Advertising
Broadly speaking, we can consider roles in media and advertising as being about either direct content creation, or its management.
Content creation can be divided into two: production of visual media such as film and television, and production of written media. However, as discussed before, there is some overlap between the two, and roles that span both, such as advertising account executives, who are responsible for liaising with clients about the production of advertising content across all genres, and marketing executives, who are responsible for planning and delivering marketing campaigns.
Roles in Creating Written Media
There are two main types of roles in creating written media:
Writers produce written content in various forms, including articles, blog posts, and social media posts; and
Editors work on content that other people have produced, to make it more compelling or to check the accuracy.
Writers may have various different job titles and slight variations in their role. For example, copywriters generally produce ‘copy’ for advertising or other publicity material. This now extends to material for use on websites. Journalists work for news or opinion outlets to prepare articles for publication. Their work may include investigation, fact-checking and writing.
Content Writing or Copywriting?
What’s the difference between content writing and copywriting?
- Content writing is generally done to entertain and inform.
- Copywriting is generally done to compel the reader to take action.
However, there is considerable overlap between the two. A lot of content produced by brands or companies for publication on the internet is nominally designed to inform readers. However, this provision of information is part of a long-term process to encourage people to buy the company’s products or services.
You can find out more about some of the skills needed to create written content in our pages on Writing Skills. In particular, you may be interested in our pages on writing for the internet, and journalistic writing and creating engaging content on social media.
Editors are often accomplished writers in their own right. However, they also have the ability to read other people’s content and appreciate how it can be changed to improve it for the audience or outlet. They will therefore, like writers, generally have an excellent grasp of grammar and spelling, and using plain English. They will also be extremely good at understanding an audience and changing content to fit that audience.
Editors have a particular skill of being able to look at a piece of writing as a whole, and see what needs to change. Good editing can result in an article or book being considerably shorter, or having new content added—but will always make it more readable.
Roles in Creating Film and Television Media
A huge number of people and roles work ‘behind the scenes’ to create film and television media. It is hard to generalise about the skills needed, because each role has its own requirements. However, one set of skills that is certainly required by all these roles is the ability to work well in a team and with other people. Many of these roles also need at least a tolerance of working long and unsocial hours, in a fairly unpredictable way.
The list of roles includes:
Producers are in overall charge of the project on a business level. They are responsible for identifying the right project, securing funding and the team to deliver, and managing the project to time and budget. They therefore need strong organisational and financial skills, as well as leadership skills.
Directors are responsible for delivering the project on a creative level. They decide how they will deliver the project, and select the right actors, costume and set designers. Like producers, they have strong leadership skills. They are also likely to be creative, helping them to develop a clear vision for the project. Finally, they will have excellent communication skills to enable them to communicate their vision to the cast and crew.
Camera operators manage the filming and camerawork required to produce videos, films or television shows. They have a good technical knowledge of cameras and filming, and can generally fix their own technical issues when they arise. They also tend to have good creative skills to be able to identify good camera angles and shots.
Sound and lighting engineers are responsible for setting up and managing the sound or lighting equipment for the production or project. They will have excellent technical skills in managing their equipment, probably developed over a long period, and good attention to detail to get the best sound or lighting possible.
Costume and set designers are responsible for designing and creating costumes and sets for the production or project. They will have extremely strong creative skills, often studying design or art to a high level. They are also likely to have a good knowledge of costume and design over time, including across historical periods. They also have good team-working skills, and ability to communicate effectively with directors and producers about what is required. Location scouts are similar to set designers, except that their role is to find suitable places for filming, rather than create them.
Editors work with directors to turn all the footage into a watchable film, video or television series. They are therefore responsible for bringing together all the footage, adding extra sounds if necessary, and putting it together in the most engaging way. They tend to have strong creative skills, and excellent communication skills to understand and interpret the director’s vision. They are also likely to be good at time management and working under pressure.
What About the Performers?
There is, of course, one group missing from the discussion on this page: the performers who create and deliver the content in visual media.
Actors, musicians and dancers are all essential to creating television and film-based media. However, they can also be involved in other work, such as theatre, concerts, and teaching. Their roles are therefore covered in our page on Creative Careers: Arts, Crafts and Design.
Cross-Cutting Roles in Media Production
Some media roles do not involve direct production of either written or visual content. However, they are still important in creating content to share with the public. These roles include:
Advertising executives and account executives, who act as the link between creative roles in advertising companies, and their clients.
These people have excellent communication skills, both orally and in writing. They also have strong leadership skills and good organisational skills, as well as the ability to think creatively and build rapport with clients.
Marketing executives and managers, who are responsible for developing and delivering effective marketing campaigns to time and budget.
You may be also interested in our guest post on career options for creative people.
A Broad Field—and Wide-Ranging Skills
One interesting aspect of working in media is that there are very few specific qualifications required.
Many of these roles need strong technical skills, but they are not learnt at school, college or university—or at least, not usually in lessons or lectures. They are more likely to be learnt over time in the industry, through voluntary roles in amateur drama productions or in societies and clubs, or as part of another job. Some jobs require degrees, but not usually in any specific subject or area.
Generally speaking, the span of possible media careers offers a variety of experiences, in a wide range of situations, and in interesting, fast-moving environments.