I met Vivian Zhang on my last trip to Portland at a roundtable on how We Are Next can better support students and junior talent. As an Assistant Media Planner at Wieden+Kennedy, she not only gave me tons of insight through her own career path, but had such a clear passion for what she does. I knew she could help shed light on the role of a media planner, and this week she's done just that. Enough from me—here's Vivian.
Media functions in several ways and will vary between accounts, whether integrated within a creative agency, or handled separately at a dedicated media agency. The main role of media is to figure out where the idea shows up in media—but there's more to the day-to-day than digging into numbers and spreadsheets. Here are three lesser known traits of media planners to help identify whether it's the right role for you.
1. Being Hypothesis-Driven
Remember in high school when you learned the Scientific Method for experiments? Media planning falls in the same framework of making educated guesses every day to create the most impactful plan to reach the largest number of your audience at an efficient cost. We are then able to test our hypothesis in the real world and see the results.
A reminder of the Scientific Method, adjusted for media:
Make observations/gather evidence about media behaviors
Formulate many hypotheses; "If you run/buy ____, then _____"
Design a media plan to test the hypothesis
State the indicators to evaluate if the experiment has succeeded (Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs)
Run the media plan
Evaluate the results of the media through lots and lots of data
- Accept or reject the hypothesis (over-deliver or under-deliver on the media)
This is also where being analytical, a more well-known characteristic of media planners, is a must-have. It's less about having all the answers from the start—it's being open to forming, testing, and analyzing hypotheses to achieve the best results for your clients.
2. Being a Holistic Thinker
When you're planning, it's easy to get lost in the details of every placement, from the site and size, to if it's VR compatible. Media planners need to be able to see the full picture of how the message is being amplified while keeping the budget in mind.
Some questions we ask ourselves to make sure we're seeing things holistically:
Does the consumer journey makes sense?
Will this new ad product be a good fit for the creative?
Are these placements safe for the brand?
Does this all fit within budget?
The big picture we paint of the whole plan and how it works together will be most important to the client who has to sign off on it.
3. Being Very Collaborative
a) With clients. Some media roles involve talking to clients with varying amounts of media knowledge every day. This is where you learn to translate media into layman's terms, and paint that beautiful picture we talked about. You'll also learn what will help sell the media plan through, and what questions may come up while presenting it. As you move up in media, managing client relationships will become your primary role.
b) With sales reps. The media space is ever-evolving, and sales reps will be in contact with you almost every day. If their opportunities align with your campaign, you'll go through the "Scientific Method" with them, and learn to negotiate the most efficient plan to bring back to your client. During the execution of your campaign, you'll be in day-to-day contact with the sales rep to make sure all the placements are running correctly. This becomes a partnership and worthy of celebration if the media runs smoothly. Other reps will reach out and what they're selling won't fit your campaign needs. You'll have to learn to turn people down—and maybe even add them to a block list.
If you nodded your head at any point and thought, that sounds like me, then media planning may be a path to explore. Continuing to stoke and develop these traits will help potential employers easily see the media planner in you.
That's my hypothesis,
Find and connect with Vivian on LinkedIn, and follow the Wieden+Kennedy team on Twitter.