Ever wonder why you don’t see commercials for Depends during Disney’s One Saturday Morning or commercials for tattoo parlors during Touched By an Angel? It all has to do with demographics. You’ve got a lot of little kids watching television on Saturday morning. The commercials they’ll see are filled with cool toys and sugarcoated chocolate cereals. Touched By an Angel has a more conservative audience that really wouldn’t be looking to get into body art or piercing. Businesses want to place their products and services in front of audiences they know are watching, listening, or even driving by on the road. How do they know? They turn to media planners. Media planners work in the media department of most advertising agencies. They are responsible for putting ads in the right place at the right time, reaching the desired audience for the least amount of money. Media planners gather information on the people’s viewing and reading habits. They evaluate editorial content and programming to determine the potential use of media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards and electric displays, buses, subways, taxis, airports, bus terminals, or the Internet. Media planners have to know demographics and statistics, using extensive formulas to chart out the best way a business can spend their money in order to get their product in front of the public. Media planners have to know their math. Media planners then turn their information over to media buyers who track the media space and times available for purchase, negotiate and purchase time and space for ads, and make sure ads appear exactly as scheduled. Media planners work in the big cities, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Other top cities include San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Dallas. They work in small advertising firms that employee less than ten people, to the big firms that employee dozens. Other media planners may work in house, meaning they work for a company that produces its own product and advertisements. No matter where they work, media planners can expect to put in a good 50 or more hours per week, as they strive to put together proposals for clients in a very short amount of time. Advertising is a high stress business, but the monetary reward of seeing your work pay off for the client can be well worth it.
Most entry-level professional and managerial positions in the advertising industry require a bachelor’s degree, preferably with broad liberal arts exposure. Assistant media planner or assistant media buyers are also good entry-level positions, but these also require a bachelor’s degree. Beginners in the advertising world usually enter the industry in the account management or media department. Most media planners don’t stay in their positions for their entire careers, so training in other marketing courses, including a little psychology, accounting, and creative design, allow media planners to move to other positions within an agency. Media planners have good people skills, common sense, creativity, communication skills, and problem-solving ability. There is also a need for additional training for those already employed. Knowing the newest technology and using it to your customer’s advantage are fundamental to success. Media planners must also know keep in tune with the culture as it ages and changes values. Success in small projects will lead to bigger ones, and success in these endeavors can lead to supervisory positions.
Other careers that use comparable skills to those of media planners are media buyers, advertising executives, and even statisticians. Media planners often move into the marketing part of advertising, working as copywriters and editors. Some, with Web experience, move into Web design and marketing.