The role of a media planner is diverse, fast-paced and comes with a great deal of pressure. To succeed, you'll need good communication skills and commercial flair

As a media planner, you'll identify which media platforms will best advertise your client's brand or product. You'll work within advertising agencies or media planning and buying agencies, with the aim of maximising the impact of advertising campaigns through a range of media platforms.

By combining creative thinking with factual analysis you'll develop appropriate strategies to ensure that campaigns reach their target audiences as effectively as possible. You'll also apply a knowledge of media and communication platforms to identify the most appropriate mediums for building awareness of a client's brand.

Media planners work with:

  • press
  • television
  • radio
  • new media, especially the internet via websites and mobile apps
  • other more unusual platforms, including promotion on buses and taxis.

Responsibilities

As a media planner, you'll need to:

  • work with the client and the account team to understand the client's business objectives and advertising strategy
  • liaise with the creative agency team, clients and consumers to develop media strategies and campaigns
  • work on several projects at the same time, often for several different clients
  • make decisions on the best form of media for specific clients and campaigns
  • undertake research and analyse data using specialist industry resources
  • identify target audiences and analyse their characteristics, behaviour and media habits
  • present proposals, including cost schedules, to clients
  • recommend the most appropriate types of media to use, as well as the most effective time spans and locations
  • work with colleagues, other departments and media buyers either in-house or in a specialist agency
  • make and maintain good contacts with media owners, such as newspapers, magazines and websites
  • manage client relationships to build respect and gain their trust in your judgement
  • proofread advertisement content before release
  • maintain detailed records
  • evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns to inform future ones.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries for junior, assistant and basic media planner/buyer positions range from £18,000 to £22,000.
  • As a media planner with several years' experience and managerial or team leader responsibilities, your salary will be in the region of £25,000 to £45,000.
  • At senior level, salaries vary enormously, but may be in excess of £60,000. In a very senior position you might expect to earn £80,000+.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work around 40 hours a week, but this isn't a 9am to 5pm job and you'll be required to have a flexible approach to your working hours. The role demands regular extra hours, for example to make new business pitches, often at evening presentations. You'll also be working extra hours to meet client-led deadlines.

What to expect

  • Media planning is a high-pressure, fast-moving and hard-working profession.
  • Most agencies are based in London with the remainder in major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. However, opportunities in other areas are starting to increase.
  • Large media independents are increasingly international in scope. Many are part of a larger media and communications group whose parent company may be based in another European country or in the USA. Large agencies may represent not only regional and local clients, but also national and international clients, making international transfer possible.
  • You'll be office-based but will travel within a working day. Occasional overnight stays will be necessary and depending on the international standing of the company you work for you may be required to travel overseas.
  • The job will involve a high level of contact with clients and media owners and this will include a degree of socialising.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates and those with an HND, the following degree or HND subjects may increase your chances:

  • advertising
  • business or management
  • communication and media studies
  • English and journalism
  • marketing
  • psychology
  • statistics.

While it's not impossible, entry without a degree or HND is unlikely without relevant experience.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not required.

Skills

You'll need to show:

  • commercial flair
  • good interpersonal, negotiation and communication skills, for liaising with colleagues, clients and media owners
  • a good grasp of literacy, for writing reports and presentations
  • a good grasp of numeracy, for data analysis and negotiations
  • strong analytical and organisational skills
  • the ability to work with IT resources such as databases and spreadsheets, for the collection and management of information
  • your capacity to work effectively under pressure.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience, especially relevant work experience, paid or unpaid, will greatly improve your chances of finding employment. The most relevant work experience is anything that has helped you to develop interpersonal skills, such as work in a customer service or sales role.

Internships in media, marketing or advertising companies give applications an edge and are generally looked on favourably by employers.

A strong and genuine interest in media and an appreciation of the part it plays in advertising is vital. A good way to support job applications is getting to know key aspects and terms used in the industry through organisations and websites such as:

Employers

Employers within the industry include:

  • media agencies which cover all media
  • new media agencies which cover advertising through digital media, text messaging and the internet
  • full service advertising agencies.

Some companies have specialist new media departments, but many outsource media planning work and the number of external agencies is increasing. As these agencies are generally small, job functions often overlap and while employees need an understanding of and enthusiasm for new media, a keen interest in business and advertising is equally important.

In full service agencies, there tends to be a greater interaction between creative and media teams. In some agencies, the role of media planner and media buyer may be combined.

Media planners also find work in more specialist agencies, including:

  • brand content agencies
  • brand experience agencies
  • creative agencies
  • digital agencies
  • direct marketing agencies
  • outdoor agencies.

You may also be known as a communications planner, brand planner or media strategist.

Speculative applications can be successful if you do your research on the role and employer carefully. Explore the company's website and be aware of their current presence in the market. Be persistent, as few jobs are advertised.

For successful career planning, research how to create targeted CVs and cover letters and how to prepare for interviews.

Professional development

You'll do most of your training while working, with the support of a more experienced colleague. On-the-job experience is crucial for developing the required skills and building practical knowledge of national and regional media.

A key aspect of early training involves gaining an understanding of audience research figures, which provide consumer and media information and are funded by the relevant media owners. These include:

  • Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) - a television measuring service
  • Doubleclick - for online advertising tracking
  • National Readership Survey (NRS) - for newspapers and magazines
  • Route Research - for out-of-home advertising
  • Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) - for both commercial and BBC radio
  • Kantar Media Expertise - for media and marketing surveys.

Understanding how to make the best use of IT and online resources is important for your role and training and information is provided by organisations such as:

A variety of training courses and opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) in many aspects of advertising and marketing, including planning, are offered by:

Career prospects

It's usual to start as a trainee, joining a team of senior planners and buyers. You'll learn on the job by working on a portfolio of accounts.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) runs relevant training courses, including the IPA Foundation Certificate for newcomers to the industry and courses aimed at the more experienced professional.

It's likely you could progress from the position of planning executive to that of a more experienced established planner or buyer after about a year. Senior or management positions bring added responsibility, often for multiple accounts and for the work of others. You can expect to reach the position of account director after gaining a few more years of experience.

You may decide to broaden your career path, perhaps moving to work in a larger group, in related fields such as data planning, research or marketing. Headhunting is common in the media industry and you may move between employers to increase your salary and broaden your experience.