During the course of a project, you may interact regularly with only two or three people at your advertising agency. (That’s by design — things can get really, really confusing otherwise.) But there’s an entire team working behind the scenes. Some, you might have met in a meeting or a concept presentation. Others you’ve never seen at all. This series will provide a rundown of all the different team members working together to make your project a success. There will not be a quiz at the end.
You’re sitting in your ad agency’s conference room (ah, the days when we could sit in conference rooms) as the team goes over your campaign, and you just aren’t sure. The TV commercials make sense and the outdoor boards, but isn’t print supposed to be dead? And isn’t Facebook for old people now, and what is an influencer anyway? (Good question, honestly.) But you trust your agency, and you go with the campaign, and suddenly your engagement is up and your sales are up and you even overheard two people downtown talking about your product.
That’s thanks to your integrated media planner. And they had to do a lot to get there.
Knowing Your Audience
You have a general idea of who your audience is. Your integrated media planner (often a planner/buyer — frequently, they wear both hats) knows exactly who your audience is. They know who you’re trying to reach and where those people spend their time, from a media-consumption standpoint. And they know where to look and what questions to ask to get an even more specific idea of the right media to use. Instagram or TikTok (or both)? Would broadcast be good, or is your audience exclusively streaming TV shows at this point? Paid, owned or earned (or all three)? All of it depends on who your audience is and what media they consume. And that’s what your integrated media planner does: know those things.
Knowing Your Platforms
The “integrated” part of “integrated media planner” means they’re able to work with the ins and outs of every platform, whether it’s traditional media like print and TV or digital media like social media and display ads. And it’s not just a matter of knowing which media to use — that’s just the beginning. Your media planner also decides when and how many. They might determine that morning drivetime is best for your radio ads but 2-4 pm is best for your Twitter posts, at a frequency of five per week. Your integrated media planner has seen and internalized the research about when to post to get the most engagement on Facebook vs. Instagram, and they have access to the viewer statistics for cable news before vs. after work.
Developing a Media Strategy
It’s not just about knowing your audience, their behaviors and the platforms they use, not to mention marketplace conditions and competitive spending — integrated media planners are able to turn all that information into a strategy for delivering your message. They know what your goals are — increase brand awareness? Maintain customer loyalty? — and they can analyze endless amounts of data to devise a clear, effective plan that fits within your budget to meet those goals. It’s a wondrous and hard-earned ability.
Some integrated media planners are also media buyers, working to secure ad space, broadcast time and any other media you’ll have to pay money for. Other times, media buyers work alongside media planners to execute their media plan. Buying media is a time-sensitive process and can involve negotiations to nail down exactly the perfect timeslot. They also track the results of the media placements so they’re able to optimize their media buys and present you with results about the effectiveness of your campaign.
What Makes a Good Integrated Media Planner/Buyer?
One important aspect of a media planner’s sheer knowledge (both subject knowledge and knowledge of the right places to look for information) is a desire to keep learning. The industry is constantly updating, and an integrated media planner has to actively keep an eye on new trends to keep up. Similarly, they require exceptional attention to detail. Data is flying around, information is ever-changing, and a person who revels in wrestling all of that into submission could be successful in this field.
Integrated media planner/buyers also have to have a degree of diplomacy—they will frequently have to interact with creative people whose big ideas are hard to fit into spreadsheets. And they need to have surprisingly acute bargaining skills. Media buying sometimes involves negotiating to secure a certain desirable spot or a lower ad rate.
What This Means for You
The integrated media planner and/or buyer takes the campaign deliverables created by the creative team and finds a place for them in the world where they’ll be effective at achieving your goals. They know precisely when, where and how your advertising efforts will go, and they can show you a spreadsheet to prove it. When you first see your campaign deliverables out in the wild, you can know that your integrated media planner/buyer picked that precise spot for your ad, for a reason.