Advertising media planners identify the best mix of media channels to deliver an advertising message to a clients' target audience. Using research data, they consider what is going to be most effective within the budget allocated and give the client's product or service maximum exposure. Media planners may specialise in a particular media vehicle. However, many provide insight across the entire media spectrum, including radio, cinema, press, television and increasingly digital, mobile communications and online media.
Job Description, salaries and benefits
Media planners identify the best mix of media channels to deliver an advertising message to a clients' target audience. Using research data, they consider what is going to be most effective within the budget allocated and give the client's product or service maximum exposure.
Media planners discuss advertising strategy with their clients, analyse and research the target audience's character, advise the creative team and clients about the most effective media combination and present media proposals.
Media buying involves obtaining the best advertising rates, adjusting media schedules in response to the latest audience figures, managing budgets and monitoring and updating clients on the effectiveness of campaigns.
Larger media agencies usually separate the planning and buying roles, although some creative agencies may combine them.
Media planners/buyers tend to work 40 hours a week, although deadlines can mean longer hours. Usually office based,they may spend time travelling to meetings. Maintaining contact with media owners can involve some out-of-hours socialising.
Salaries may range from £15,000 to £50,000 or more a year.
An advertising media planner/buyer should have:
- excellent research skills
- the ability to recognise good opportunities
- confidence negotiating
- good team and interpersonal skills
- an interest in media and people's motivations.
Entry is highly competitive. Most opportunities are in London, but there are also advertising agencies in larger cities throughout the UK. Work experience with an agency or in related areas, such as marketing or market research, could help.
There are no set qualifications to become a media planner/buyer, but most entrants have a degree or HNC/HND in a relevant topic, such as advertising, marketing, business management or media studies. Creative ability and enthusiasm for media channels are qualities that impress employers.
Training is usually on the job. Some larger advertising agencies may offer structured graduate training programmes. Media research organisations frequently run industry specific workshops that can assist planners and buyers to make best use of their data.
Trainees typically progress into a permanent position as a media planner/buyer within a year. By taking on more account management responsibilities, they can reach senior management posts within three to five years. Some may broaden their role, moving into data management, account planning, research or marketing.
What is the work like?
Targeting advertising and marketing communications in this way requires a clear understanding of many factors and the different media channels. They may use this knowledge to give some creative input, working closely with advertising, public relations and other creative agency personnel during the development of entire communication strategies. This ensures the right balance is achieved. Media planners and buyers may also be responsible for budget control.
Typical duties of media planners include:
- meeting clients to understand their advertising strategy and building up a picture about their target audience
- analysing and researching the target audience's character, purchasing and media habits
- maintaining contacts with media owners, ensuring statistics, circulation and viewing figures are up to date
- advising the creative team and clients about the most effective media combination
- considering appropriate timings of media activities, based upon usage patterns and seasonal factors
- presenting media proposals, including timings and cost breakdowns, helping clients to reach a final decision about their future advertising strategy.
Larger media agencies usually separate the planning and buying roles, although some creative agencies may combine them. Media buyers liaise constantly with media owners, negotiating and buying media space. This can involve:
- obtaining the best advertising rates that fit with the agreed media strategy
- presenting alternative options to the media planner and client
- adjusting media schedules in response to the latest audience figures
- managing budgets and maintaining advertising spend records
- monitoring and updating clients on the effectiveness of campaigns.
Most media planners and buyers work on several accounts at once. Those with experience have more direct contact with clients.
The starting salary for media planners and buyers may be around £15,000 to £20,000 a year.
Hours and environment
Media planners/buyers tend to work 40 hours a week from Monday to Friday. Some agencies have flexible working hours on the understanding that staff will work late when deadlines demand it. It may be possible for experienced media planners to work part time. Freelance opportunities are becoming more common, although these are generally short-term contracts that require significant agency experience.
Although office based, more experienced media planners spend a lot of their time visiting clients to attend meetings and make strategy presentations. Clients can be based anywhere in the UK. Occasional short overnight stays may be required. A lot of the work is conducted over the telephone. Maintaining contact with media owners can involve an element of out-of-hours socialising.
The working environment, although informal, can be quite pressurised. Office dress code is generally casual, although professional attire is expected for client meetings.
Salary and other benefits
These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.
- The starting salary for a junior media planner may be around £15,000 to £20,000 a year, and £17,000 for junior media buyers.
- With three to five years' experience, media planners and buyers may earn between £25,000 and £40,000 a year.
- Senior salaries vary widely, but may reach £50,000 or more.
London agencies and those specialising in certain media channels like digital and TV tend to pay higher salaries.
Skills and personal qualities
Advertising media planners/buyers should be:
- good researchers
- aware of media trends and have a flair for business and commerce
- resourceful and creative, recognising good opportunities
- logical thinkers
- excellent negotiators with good interpersonal skills
- able to work alongside a range of people and as part of a team
- analytical and comfortable interpreting data into meaningful research
- experienced presenters with good written and spoken communication skills
- persuasive and diplomatic
- computer literate
- able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
- confident talking on the telephone and face-to-face with clients.
It is important to:
- have a genuine interest in media and advertising
- understand what motivates people to buy a product or service and the role media channels play in this
- maintain an awareness of industry developments and media trends.
There are approximately 3,000 people employed in UK media planning and buying roles. Major employers include specialist media and multimedia agencies and large creative agencies that produce advertising, marketing and digital communications. Over 70 per cent of the advertising workforce is London based. Other key UK centres include Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester.
Competition for advertising jobs is strong. It is highly desirable for applicants to have some relevant experience. This can be unpaid work experience with an agency or experience in related areas, such as marketing or market research.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) have a scheme allowing students to post their CVs on the IPA website between June and September each year. Their Graduate Recruitment Agency Factfile lists member agencies with structured recruitment programmes. It also lists member addresses and fields the agency specialises in, for people wishing to make a speculative approach to agencies.
Job vacancies for media planners/buyers are advertised in industry magazines, such as Campaign, Creative Review, Marketing, Marketing Week and Media Week, and in national newspapers. They are also available through recruitment agencies and advertised on the internet, including www.mad.co.uk and the IPA website www.ipa.co.uk.
Entry for young people
Although there are no set qualifications to become a media planner/buyer, like most advertising careers, entry is competitive. Many applying for first jobs have a degree or HNC/HND in a relevant topic, for instance:
- advertising or marketing
- business management
- media studies.
However, creative ability and enthusiasm for brands and different media channels are qualities employers are equally impressed by. Relevant work experience as a summer intern or during a sandwich degree programme can greatly increase chances of employment. A customer or business role that illustrates confidence dealing with people can be equally beneficial.
Applicants for HND courses usually need at least one A level/two H grades or equivalent qualifications. For a degree at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications are usually required. Candidates should check with individual universities and colleges for specific entry requirements.
Entry for adults
Nearly half (47 per cent) of the workforce is under the age of 34. Mature applicants may need previous experience of working in advertising sales, direct marketing or communications.
Junior media planners/buyers tend to learn their skills on the job, supporting and working alongside more experienced colleagues. Some of the larger agencies may offer structured training programmes.
Work-based training usually involves working on a variety of client accounts to gain a broader experience. Many attend seminars and workshops run by key media research organisations. These help media planners and buyers to gain an understanding of how to interpret and make best use of the audience research figures and findings.
Employers may also encourage new entrants to take the IPA Foundation Certificate. This is an online learning course culminating in a two-hour exam, designed to give an overview of advertising and the specific roles within the industry.
There are many other short courses offered by a number of organisations, including The Account Planning Group, Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Media Research Group and Media Circle.
All people employed in this field are expected to keep up to date with industry trends and standards by reading relevant publications.
With around one years' experience, trainees typically progress into a permanent position as a media planner/buyer. Progression beyond this is largely based upon personal performance. Movement between media and advertising agencies is common.
Those working in IPA member agencies have access to the IPA Continuous Professional Development in Advertising Standard, which supports structured career progression.
Realistically, successful candidates can take on more account management and senior responsibilities within three to five years. Some may broaden their role, moving into data management, account planning, research or marketing. There are also many new opportunities, particularly with the rapid expansion of multimedia technologies.
- The Account Planning Group (APG), 16 Creighton Avenue, London N10 1NU. 020 8444 3692.
- Advertising Association, 7th Floor North, Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT. 020 7340 1100.
- The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH. 01628 427500.
- Creative & Cultural Skills, 4th Floor, Lafone House, The Leathermarket, Weston St, London SE1 3HN. 020 7015 1800.
- The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), 44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS. 020 7235 7020.
- Media Circle, 44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS. 020 7201 8252.
- The Media Research Group.
- Careers in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations - Kogan Page
- Getting into Advertising - The Advertising Association
- How to Get into Advertising - Thomson Learning
- How to Plan Advertising - APG
- What is Account Planning - APG
- Creative Review
- The Drum
- Marketing Week
- Media Week