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How do I get into media planning?

4 min read
Media planning

There are many paths to Media Planning, and any path involves getting to know the various media options so well that you live, sleep and breathe them. I’ll tell you my path – it’s kind of an interesting one.

I started my career straight out of college as a Graphic Artist. I handled pre-press fixes for envelope manufacture, prepping files for our presses, and making sure the layouts adhered to USPS specs. I was an Art Major, focused on charcoal/pastel drawings and mosaics. I never took a course in Graphic Arts as they simply weren’t offered at my school (and I graduated just slightly before the Computer Age).

From the Envelope Company, I moved to a newspaper Graphic Artist and developed a dream of being a Creative Director for an Ad Agency. I fell in love with advertising, and with my traditional art background and the skills I had picked up on the computer, I thought this was a wonderful aspiration. But Artists in the newspaper industry doesn’t make any money! I also realized that some sales skills would be a really helpful asset to becoming a Creative Director so that I can “sell” my ideas to clients. And “sell” to solicit new clients.

So, I moved into a territory sales position at the newspaper. While in ad sales, I learned all about other media because the best way to sell against them was to know how they sold. It went back to the adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. I would call up our competitors and pretend I was a potential advertiser or agency and ask for rate card information. I even set up some meetings to talk to their rep more in-depth about their media offerings. I learned all that I could learn about my local competitors from television, radio, outdoor, and then eventually digital as well in addition to the other publications in the market.

It wasn’t long before that insatiable curiosity was rewarded. I moved out of sales and into a marketing research position to help all the reps sell this way (I had grown my territory exponentially by learning about my competition in this depth – and this was well into the crash of newspaper advertising sales).

After 16 years in the newspaper (and digital) industry, I was getting antsy to get out. Things were getting really bad for them financially (I survived two bankruptcies, numerous sweeping layoffs, in-sourcing, and outsourcing), and I was getting bored to boot. And I still had that little dream of working for an agency, just not in the creative arm anymore. I had a new love, marketing, and media!

So, I took my existing skillset and what had become a growing and solid knowledge of various media (not just newspapers and digital) and started applying to Media Planning positions. With my background in research and more specifically, media research, I was apparently An intriguing prospect for media agencies. I wasn’t “classically” trained in media buying or planning (I don’t even know what that means because as a previous answer pointed out, I don’t think it is something taught in any college program). I thought outside the box as far as media was concerned. And I didn’t approach every media plan as a cookie-cutter option. Every client was unique with their own unique goals and challenges that would require a unique media mix to answer.

I got a break from a small media agency as a Senior Media Planner. Eventually moved to another small agency as Media Director, then Media and Measurement Director, then Marketing & Media Strategy Director. And now I am starting my own Marketing Strategy Agency.

Because I DIDN’T come from a traditional Media Planning background, I am a firm believer in cultivating interest and talent without necessarily having all of the experience. If there is a little bit of understanding and an insatiable curiosity that can grow, it’s what I look for in a Media Planner.

A great place to start would be to get yourself Google AdWords Certified or Bing Ads Accredited or get a job as an Advertising Sales Rep for some newspaper, television, radio, or billboard company. With any of these starting points, you need to DO to learn. Sell and get to know your competition. Then get out. Once you know your competitive media, you can plan because you will have learned their strengths and weaknesses.