To be a successful media planner you need commercial flair and good communication skills. If this sounds like you find out more about required qualifications, expected salary and career prospects

Media planners identify which media platforms would best advertise a client's brand or product. They work within advertising agencies or media planning and buying agencies. They enable their clients to maximise the impact of their advertising campaigns through the use of a range of media.

Media planners combine creative thinking with factual analysis to develop appropriate strategies to ensure that campaigns reach their target audiences as effectively as possible. They apply 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, in particular the internet.

Other more unusual platforms include promotion on the sides of buses and taxis.

Some agencies may combine the role of planner with the role of a media buyer. Media planners may also be known as communications planners, brand planners or strategists.

Responsibilities

In your role as a media planner, you’ll usually work on several projects at the same time, often for a number of different clients. Duties generally fall into two main areas, with levels of client contact increasing with seniority:

Preparation:

  • working with the client and the account team to understand the client's business objectives and advertising strategy;
  • liaising with the creative agency team, clients and consumers to develop media strategies and campaigns;
  • making decisions on the best form of media for specific clients and campaigns;
  • undertaking research and analysing data using specialist industry resources;
  • identifying target audiences and analysing their characteristics, behaviour and media habits;
  • presenting proposals, including cost schedules, to clients.

Implementation:

  • recommending the most appropriate types of media to use, as well as the most effective time spans and locations;
  • working with colleagues, other departments and media buyers either in-house or in a specialist agency;
  • making and maintaining good contacts with media owners, such as newspapers, magazines and websites;
  • managing client relationships to build respect and trust in your judgement;
  • proofreading advertisement content before release;
  • maintaining detailed records;
  • evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns in order to inform future campaigns.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries for junior, assistant and basic media planner/buyer positions may range from £18,000 to £22,000.
  • Salaries for media planners with several years' experience and for managerial or team leader positions range from £25,000 to £45,000.
  • Salaries at senior level vary enormously but may be in excess of £60,000. Those in extremely senior positions may earn £80,000+.

Starting salaries can vary and can be lower than comparable graduate jobs. However, progress can be fast, and there is potential for very high earnings based on results achieved. Some areas command higher salaries, e.g. digital and TV. Moving around agencies on a frequent basis can increase salaries. Smaller agencies and those outside London will pay less.

There is limited scope for self-employed consultancy and freelance work, as these opportunities tend to be short-term contracts and you’d need to have years of agency experience.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Media planners usually work around 40 hours a week but this is not a 9am to 5pm job and employers require staff to have a flexible approach to their 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.

Some media agencies have started contracting out work or providing flexible work patterns.

What to expect

  • This is a pressured, fast-moving and hard-working profession.
  • The atmosphere and dress code in agencies is usually informal, although a professional and business-like appearance is required for meetings with clients.
  • The majority of 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. International transfer is therefore possible.
  • There is a high level of contact with clients. Contact with media owners (who provide the platform for communicating the brand, via newspapers and TV, etc.) is substantial and includes a degree of socialising.
  • Media planners are office-based but travel within a working day, occasional absence from home overnight and overseas work or travel are sometimes required, depending on the international standing of the company.
  • There are roughly equal numbers of men and women in this profession.

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;
  • operational research;
  • 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 will need to show:

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

Work experience

Pre-entry experience, especially relevant work experience, paid or unpaid, will greatly improve your chances. The most relevant work experience is anything that has helped 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 the number of these agencies has increased in the last few years. 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.

Some jobs are also available in full service agencies, where there is a greater interaction between creative and media teams.

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.

Make speculative applications to relevant employers. Applications should be based on careful research of both the role and the specific employer. Explore the company's website and be aware of the company's current presence in the market. Be persistent, as few jobs are advertised. Read more on how to find a job.

Employers often receive large quantities of applications for advertised roles, which are time-consuming to sift through, so often prefer to recruit on a word-of-mouth basis or through the speculative applications they receive directly from interested candidates. A targeted covering letter and CV demonstrating enthusiasm and knowledge are, therefore, key to any successful application. Also look at how to prepare for interviews.

Look at job vacancies at:

There are a few specialist recruitment agencies.

Professional development

Training is usually undertaken 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:

Developing knowledge and an understanding of how to make the best use of IT and online resources is an important aspect of on-going training and is provided by organisations such as:

In-house training may depend on the size and nature of individual companies, but most will offer programmes covering IT, presentation skills and media research tools, either in-house or externally.

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

There's strong competition for trainee posts as there are only a small number of vacancies each year and employers only want to take on the very best talent. However, once you have made a start in the industry, opportunities do exist, with career progression based largely on performance.

IPA operates a CPD accreditation standard, available to graduates working within IPA member agencies.

Graduates employed by IPA member agencies are also eligible to take part in IPA's seven-stage training programme, which provides a formal structure for career progression.

Most media planners start as trainees, joining a team of senior planners and buyers. Working on a portfolio of accounts you'll learn on the job.

Planning executives usually progress to become established planners or buyers after about a year. Promotion to a senior or management position brings added responsibility for a number of accounts and for the work of others.

A typical career path tends to be vertical for the first few years, and it is normal to reach senior level, i.e. account director, after a few years of experience. At this point, it is usual to broaden your career path.

There are often opportunities within agencies to progress to working in a larger group, in related fields such as data planning, research or marketing. There are sometimes even opportunities to 'invent' new roles as it is the nature of the industry to be dynamic in order to keep in line with the ever-changing requirements of clients.

Headhunting is common in the media industry and a planner or buyer may move between employers in order to increase their salary and broaden their experience. Therefore, your reputation, both in your own company and externally, is of crucial importance to your future career development.