Comms Council Graduate Programme

Posted 23 July 2019.

The Comms Council Graduate Programme is one of the advertising industry’s longest-running and most successful grad programmes and is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door of the advertising world.

Applications for next year’s programme are NOW CLOSED.

What is advertising?

Advertising is a demanding, rigorous business and its people are smart, tough and decisive. They work very hard at what they do; which, in a nutshell, is helping to solve clients’ business problems through effective communication, targeted through the right channels.

If you’re seriously considering a career in this exciting industry, it pays to do your homework - reading industry publications as often as you can and getting to know the key sectors of the business.

It also helps to think about your own unique interests and skills and which area of the industry would best put them to work.

What roles do the Graduate Programme offer?

Advertising is a rich and varied industry, with a myriad of different roles to suit a range of different skill sets.
The main roles offered within the Comms Council Graduate Programme include:

• Account Executive

• Media Assistant

• Digital/Interactive Marketing

• Experiential Assistant

It’s important to note that this programme does not offer roles in the Creative department.
If your role is to become a copywriter, art director or creative, this isn’t the programme for you.
If so, please get in touch with us at and we can point you towards the right resources.

What are the roles and what do they involve?

Account Management (AKA Suits)

Account Management people are the client’s representative within the agency and the agency’s representative for the client. It’s their job to know everything there is to know about their client’s business and its key competitors. They share this knowledge with the agency team, building strong internal relationships and making sure work is completed to a high standard, on time and on budget. They become the glue between the client and agency people.

The Account Management department has a clear hierarchy and as part of the Graduate Programme, you will begin as an Account Executive - before slowly working your way up to Account Manager, then onto Account Director and so on.

An Account Executive’s key responsibilities include:

• Coordinating day-to-day activities on behalf of a client

• Supporting the team with daily administrative tasks

• Briefing creative teams on projects

• Trafficking work through the agency

• Presenting work to clients under the supervision of an Account Director

• Making sure the work gets done on time and a budget

• And knowing how to make a great cup of coffee is a bonus!

The best Account Executives are:

• Highly organised and attentive to detail

• Outstanding communicators

• Sensible decision-makers

• Natural problem-solvers

• All-round team players


Whether in a full-service or specialist agency, media plays a pivotal role in advertising. Media planners, buyers and researchers make the client’s investment count, by making sure the advertising is seen by the right people at the right time. They find the right viewers, listeners and readers – known as the ‘target audience’ - and develop a cost-effective plan for reaching them. Then they negotiate deals with the media of choice for efficient delivery of advertising messages.

As part of the Graduate Programme, you may begin as a Media Assistant – and from there, potentially work your way up to either planning or buying, depending on your personal skillsets.

Media Assistants:

• Support their team with daily administrative tasks

• Prepare budgets and estimates

• Conduct statistical media analysis

• Take primary responsibility for day-to-day media administration functions

• Start to develop relationships with media suppliers

Media Planners:

• Use their deep understanding of media markets to develop media plans

• Specify which media the client should purchase to reach their target audience

• Recommend an appropriate mix of media

• Recommend an advertising period and frequency

• Ensure the recommended campaign falls within and makes the most of the client’s budget

Media Buyers:

• Take the approved media plan and turn it into a reality

• Reserve and book the appropriate spaces and times

• Negotiate the best rates on their client’s behalf

• Monitor media to make sure all goes according to plan

Digital/Interactive Marketing

Display, Search, Email, Mobile, Social Media - these days, opportunities in the digital marketing field are everywhere you look. Digital marketing is a multi-faceted beast, needing account service, media, production and creative people - and often blurring the lines between the different disciplines. The world of digital and interactive marketing also has opportunities in design, data management and computer programming. People who excel in digital roles tend to have analytical minds and great attention to detail. They can come from a wide range of backgrounds - from communications or marketing degrees, right through to math, science and computer science.

Public Relations/PR

PR professionals work with clients to develop public relations strategies and manage a company’s day-to-day communications.

Key responsibilities include writing press releases and other promotional materials, pitching stories to the media, fielding media calls and monitoring press coverage - and also planning special events, like analyst tours, press conferences and media briefings.

At the entry level, PR coordinators/executives write and proofread

promotional materials, conduct research and assist with media outreach. They often maintain media databases and develop and track editorial calendars. PR professionals need excellent written and verbal communication skills and attention to detail.

Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing brings brands to life through real-world activity. This form of marketing creates personally relevant, memorable and emotional connections between brands and consumers; connections that lead to increased sales and brand loyalty.

Campaign coordinators are responsible for working with a team to produce and execute creative experiential marketing events. They sort logistics, produce timelines, liaise with suppliers, coordinate staffing requirements - and need to be savvy with social media communications and platforms.

They usually work on multiple projects and juggle a lot of balls at once, so great organisational and communication skills are essential, as is an acute attention to detail and a can-do, problem-solving attitude.

A quick reality check…

Advertising is a thrilling and rewarding industry to work in. But it’s also one where hard work and patience pays off.

So if you’re looking to win top awards, travel the world, or become CEO, all within your first year in the industry - you may want to look again!

It takes time to work your way up to the top of the pack. So come prepared to put in the hard yards, do your time and be patient. Trust us, it’ll be worth it.

Other roles in advertising not offered within the programme:


Sponsorship and events are closely linked to experiential marketing, as they’re focused on creating connections with consumers through personal interaction.

The events team develops a strategy that delivers business objectives – then they manage, organise and oversee the event from end to end.

Key responsibilities include creative input, sourcing and managing external providers, sourcing venues, guest speakers and entertainment, sorting guest-lists and invitations, and organising agendas.

Strong project management skills and the ability to stick to budget are essential.


Production is where the “doing” happens. It’s where the ideas within the agency actually get made, either in-hose, or through external production companies. The major production areas are TV, radio, print and digital. The production team forever has its eye on deadlines, while haggling with printers for the best deals or coordinating talent and camera operators for a commercial shoot.

It’s a highly organised, fast-paced environment - suitable for those with an eye for detail, an ability to meet tight deadlines and an affinity with working under pressure.


Creatives are the ideas people. They generally come in teams of two; an art director and a copywriter. During the concept phase, they work together to come up with ideas for campaigns - which the Account Management team then help ‘sell in’ to the clients. Once an idea is ‘sold in,’ their roles become much more defined - with the copywriter working on the words and the art director taking care of the visual side of things. They work closely together for long hours, so they need to have a genuine understanding of, and respect for, one another’s work.

As a creative, you’d generally start out as an intern - before working your way up through the Junior, Intermediate and Senior levels, with the goal of one day becoming a Creative Director.

Art Director:

Art Directors create visual directions that not only express the benefits of a client’s product or service, but also appeal to a specific audience. An understanding of graphic design is useful - and skills in illustration, typography and film are a bonus.


Copywriters need to be focused communicators, with a talent for writing memorable and succinct copy. Good copywriting demands discipline, a solid understanding of language and an innate ability to get inside the minds of a whole range of different target audiences - whether it’s a parent buying a pram or a teenager buying a skateboard.

Please note that the Comms Council Graduate Programme does not offer roles within creative disciplines The route to the Creative Department takes quite a different path and involves putting together a portfolio of your creative work.

If you’re looking to get into the creative side of advertising, email and we can point you in the direction of the right resources.

What are the different types of advertising agencies?

Advertising and communications is incredibly multi-faceted and it’s becoming more so every day. That’s why, as well as encompassing a range of different roles, the industry also includes a range of different types of agencies. Each generally caters to a specific discipline, with various agencies often joining forces to collaborate on 260 degree solutions for their clients.

Creative Agencies

While every type of agency within the advertising industry lives and breathes creativity, the agencies we call ‘Creative Agencies’ are responsible for coming up with the big ideas that really shape a brand. From brand strategy, to TV ads, to print, to radio, they create and execute creative campaigns designed to appeal to specific target audiences and solve their clients’ business problems.

Media Agencies

Media Agencies are responsible for bringing creative advertising campaigns to the world’s attention. They design media plans for their clients, recommending when, where, and how they should advertise their products and services – and then buying and placing the media on their behalf.

Digital Agencies

Digital Agencies are specialists in all things online. From websites, to banners, to apps, they create digital creative that helps their clients put their best online foot forward. They make it their business to keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape, so that their clients can, too.

Experiential Agencies

Experiential Agencies specialise in creating unforgettable real-world brand experiences, with a focus on creating tangible connections between brands and their target audiences. They take care of everything, from coming up with creative event ideas, through to executing every detail on the day.

Full-service Agencies

Along with all the specialist agencies, there are the Full Service Agencies. These are the behemoths that cover everything in-house – from media buying and planning, to building apps from scratch. They’re like a one-stop-shop, constantly evolving to cater to any marketing solution their clients might need.

Getting your foot in the door

Breaking into the advertising industry is no mean feat. It means getting up off the couch and selling yourself, and taking in as much knowledge as you can. Study the communications market in all its diversity, read trade publications closely, and familiarise yourself with New Zealand agencies and their work - so if questioned at interview stage, you can offer up informed opinions, and intelligent observations.

If you’re graduating in the next 12 months and would like to apply to the Comms Council Graduate Programme, please click here.

Applications for 2020 have now closed.

We look forward to hearing from you!