What Does a Media Planner Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Media planners, also known as brand planners or brand strategists, work at advertising agencies and create ad campaigns for various clients. The media planner works with clients to help them make decisions about how a particular media campaign will unfold.
The media planner's main focus is to orchestrate the placement of their client's advertising copy into various media venues that maximize advertising reach toward the client's target audience. These venues include television, internet, radio, billboards, print, and direct mail.
Some media planners also track the performance of advertising on the back end, letting the client know the return on investment for their campaign, and whether they're receiving good value for their advertising dollars.
Media Planner Duties & Responsibilities
Media planners handle a variety of responsibilities, including analyzing and interpreting advertising data to help clients improve their advertising campaigns. Duties include the following:
- Analyzing data, thinking creatively and designing innovative strategies to make sure client marketing campaigns reach their target audience in the most effective way possible
- Assessing the impact and suitability of different media types used to target certain markets based on their clients' needs and wants
- Developing various options for media plans based on the client's objectives
- Analyzing the client's post-campaign results and recommending refinements
- Interacting with internal and external partners to evaluate, implement, and maintain a media plan
- Collecting and analyzing information on different media channels, such as newspapers, radio, magazines, television, films, the Internet, and outdoor posters and digital billboards
- Creating or recommending certain media strategies to attract and retain customers, increase the client's brand recognition, and maintain and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Working closely with clients to understand their needs, wants, and objectives, and then determining which media channels fit best for specific campaigns
Media Planner Salary
A media planner's salary varies based on the area of expertise, level of experience, education, certifications, and other factors.
- Median Annual Salary: $48,885 ($23.5 /hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $62,000 ($29.81/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $36,000 ($17.31/hour)
Source: Payscale.com, 2019
Education, Training & Certification
You don’t need special training or a graduate degree to become a media planner, though many agencies do require a bachelor's degree or specialization in a particular area.
- Education: Most employers prefer candidates to have a college degree in areas such as communication and media studies, business or management, marketing, advertising, English, journalism, operational research, statistics, or other related areas.
- Experience: You may be able to land an entry-level position in media planning with no training or prior experience. However, considering that advertising and marketing are highly competitive, it’s highly unlikely that you could progress very far in this career without a degree or a considerable amount of industry experience. Employers look for those with previous experience in marketing, media assets management, or a related field.
Media Planner Skills & Competencies
The main thing a media planner needs is a willingness and eagerness to learn about the world of advertising, but a few other skills and knowledge sets can give candidates an edge, such as:
- Social skills: The job can be very social because it entails working with and entertaining clients, so an interest in and ability to socialize with colleagues and clients is paramount.
- Marketing knowledge: Also important is an understanding of how marketing and advertising works. The first question to ask yourself is this: How can a client--either a big consumer product company like Starbucks or a national nonprofit service organization like Planned Parenthood--best brand itself?
- Entertainment media knowledge: From there, media planners must know the entertainment world in depth (from network TV shows like "Good Morning America" on ABC-TV to niche TV shows like "Chopped Junior" on the Food Network). Unless media planners know what kind of audience is attracted to what kind of show, they can't place ads appropriately.
- Online media knowledge: And, because the media landscape in the 21st century is vastly different than it was in the 20th century, media planners need to know not just which national TV shows and large magazines and newspapers to target, they also have to be familiar with all the websites, blogs and social media offerings available to consumers.
- Computer skills: The media planner job involves research using several online databases.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects strong job growth for market research analysts from 2016 to 2026. They project that jobs for this profession will increase by 23%, which is much faster than average when compared to all occupations. The growth is driven mainly by increased usage of market data and research across many industries.
Although the market research field (which includes the media planning profession) is estimated to grow, the competition for jobs is expected to be very high.
Media planners typically work in an office environment, although they may have a small amount of travel to client offices.
A media planner’s working hours are similar to that of the other professions within the advertising and marketing industry (i.e. between 35 and 40 hours per week), except when deadlines are approaching, or you’re required to give presentations or attend meetings outside of your normal working hours, that fit in around your client’s schedule.
How to Get the Job
To give yourself a competitive edge to either get your first job as a media planner or advance up the ladder, it's a good idea to plug into (and engage with) the top media planners (and buyers) currently employed at ad agencies all over the world.
Try visiting AdAge Datacenter, which is a primary resource for business intelligence and media research. Use the site's resources to build up your media buying and planning contacts with profiles of advertisers, agencies, and others. You can also check the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Sales professionals and others use this navigator to find contacts and get referrals to important media brands.
Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also visit your college career center and the websites of various industry trade groups to look for career listings. Ad agencies offer entry-level positions, and for those still in college, many agencies offer internships.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in a media planner career also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:
Source: Payscale.com, 2019