Media Planner Job Description - Skills, Responsibilities and Career

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What Does a Media Planner Do?

Media Planner job description

Media planners develop strategies designed to maximize a company’s return on its advertising spend. They decide which media channels should be used to achieve the business, marketing and communication objectives of an advertising campaign as efficiently as possible, ensuring that a campaign’s message is delivered at the right place and at the right time in order to reach the client’s target audience within the available budget.

Media planners play a key role in the advertising industry. Their job is to develop strategic media plans that set out which advertising platforms and channels will be used as part of an advertising campaign, applying both qualitative and quantitative criteria. Media plans set out how an advertising or communications campaign will be run with a view to achieving specific ROI (or return on investment) objectives. These may include new leads generation, increasing customer loyalty, enhancing brand recognition and awareness and launching a new product.

Media planning involves determining:

  • Which online and offline communication channels will be used (i.e. the media mix)
  • The target market of the campaign, i.e. the group of consumers or users the advertising message will be aimed at
  • The demographic and geographic segments of the campaign’s target market
  • The advertising frequency, i.e. the number of times the advertisement will appear in the chosen range of media
  • The time frame of a campaign, i.e. duration, dates and times
  • The breakdown of the budget for each of the media channels

Once the planning phase has been completed and the advertising channels have been selected (e.g. TV, radio newspaper and magazine adverts, outdoor advertising such as billboards, posters, signs and banners, online advertising, and product placement), advertising space needs to be booked and purchased from media owners, advertising networks or media agencies. Typically, relations and negotiations with organizations selling advertising space are handled by a media buyer, although in small and medium-sized businesses, this may be done by the media planner.

Media Planner skills and competencies

Once an advertising campaign has started, media planners are responsible for ensuring it is being implemented effectively and for monitoring performance using KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This involves ensuring that the agreed exposure time and placement agreed to with the media owners is being adhered to and implementing corrective measures if the performance is not in line with expectations. Media planners also monitor the advertising activity of competitors and use this information to optimize or adjust their client’s advertising strategy.

Once a campaign has finished, media planners measure the results achieved, compare them with expectations and prepare final reports.

In order to plan a successful advertising campaign that stays within the available budget, media planners need an in-depth knowledge of the various channels of communication (also known as the ‘mass media’), i.e. television, print media, radio, indoor and outdoor advertising, digital media (e.g. websites, social media, apps etc.). They should also be familiar with the characteristics of each channel, the demographics of their audiences, circulation figures, readership, print run, market penetration, audience ratings and - for digital assets - online traffic data.

A media planner also needs to have an up-to-date knowledge of the rates applied for advertising space so that they can allocate the campaign budget accurately and effectively and also be familiar with the media analysis tools used to monitor campaign performance (KPI and ROI) and the activity of competitors.

In recent years, the rise of online advertising and digital media has led to the emergence of the digital media lanner - a media planning professional with a knowledge of online advertising strategies and tools and techniques, e.g. paid search advertising, display advertising, online video advertising, social networks and email marketing. Digital media planners make use of analytics tools and software to monitor digital advertising campaigns in real time. This enables them to monitor performance very closely and accurately and to make adjustments to a campaign while it is running.

Media planners mainly work for advertising agencies, communication agencies and digital and web agencies.

Most companies in fact tend to outsource the running of their advertising campaigns to agencies who are able to handle the entire advertising process, i.e. the creative process (handled in tandem by an art director and a copywriter) and the media planning part, which is handled by the media planner and media buyer.

Typically, a media planner will have working relationships with, on the one hand, the clients (i.e. the advertisers) and, on the other, the account manager and the other management staff at the agency they work for.

Generally speaking, a media planner’s workplace will be the agency offices, although they may be required to make business trips to meet clients, partners and media owners. Working hours tend to be flexible and will likely depend on the requirements of the specific advertising campaign(s) being run at any given moment.

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Media Planner Duties and Responsibilities

Media Planner tasks and responsibilities

The duties of a Media Planner include:

  • Planning online and offline advertising campaigns designed to achieve specific ROI objectives
  • Selecting the communication channels and advertising tools best suited to achieving the set objectives
  • Allocating the budget to the selected media channels
  • Purchasing advertising space and handling relations with media owners, agencies and suppliers (in companies/agencies where there is no media buyer)
  • Monitoring campaign delivery and performance
  • Producing final reports on campaign results

How to Become a Media Planner - Education and Training

How to become Media Planner - Training

Although there are no standard training or education requirements for becoming a media planner, an academic background in marketing, advertising, publishing, journalism, communication, economics, business management or psychology will be viewed favourably by employers. Meanwhile, skills in marketing, information technology, statistical analysis and consumer psychology are also all particularly advantageous.

There are also courses in media planning and digital media planning through which aspiring media planners can acquire the skills typically required for media planning vacancies. These include the ability to create digital and offline advertising campaign plans, to monitor the results obtained and to produce reports, as well as familiarity with media analysis tools such as audience ratings and market share (television and radio), market research and web analytics software.

In addition to this theoretical knowledge, newly recruited media planners at a communications or advertising agency will generally be given the opportunity to gain practical expertise through a period of on-the-job training administered by more experienced colleagues.

What Skills Are Needed to Work as a Media Planner?

The skills required by a media planner include:

  • In-depth knowledge of offline and online media channels
  • Ability to use main media planning tools and software
  • Budget management skills
  • Negotiation skills for purchasing advertising space
  • Ability to analyze and manage data
  • Client/result-oriented approach
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team

Media Planner Career Path

Media Planner career path

A career in media planning typically begins with an entry-level position, either as an intern or a junior media planner, within a team together with more experienced colleagues.

Subsequently, as they gain more experience planning and running advertising campaigns, junior planners will gradually be assigned more important projects to handle and can expect to progress to become a senior media planner.

Subsequent career opportunities include moving on to work for a bigger, more important agency that handles well-known national and international clients and brands or, alternatively, attempting to carve out a career as a freelance media planner. Meanwhile, for those who possess or acquire knowledge of digital media and advertising, another option is to become a digital media planner - a role that involves developing web advertising strategies, which is very much in demand on the job market.

Finally, media planners can make use of the experience and skills they acquire at an advertising or web agency to embark upon a career in marketing, where there are a great many career opportunities, including as marketing manager, brand manager, digital manager or social media manager.

Top Reasons to Work in Media Planning

The job of Media Planner is a dynamic and challenging role suited to people with a passion for the world of communication and advertising. With Media Planners at an agency typically handling several different projects any one time, and with each individual campaign presenting its own specific challenges, working towards achieving the targets that have been set can be a highly stimulating and rewarding experience. To be successful, media planners need to have excellent organizational skills and should work on constantly adding to their knowledge of the advertising market. The jobs market for media planners is solid and in expansion, with businesses needing people who can help them get the most out of their advertising spend in what are increasingly competitive market conditions.

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