Why You Should Hire a Media Planner

Why You Should Hire a Media Planner

Big Ideas

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August 21 2020
Big Ideas

At the first advertising agency I worked at, we had a format for client presentations. First, the account person would recap the project briefing agreement. Second, the media team would present the media plan and explain how it met the campaign objectives. Lastly, the creative person would reveal the concept and a few mocked-up tactics and broadcast scripts.  

After one of these meetings, I asked the account director why the creative wasn’t shared earlier in the meeting. She explained that the client was most interested in the creative and if we shared that first, they wouldn’t pay as much attention to the media plan; without the right media plan, the creative wouldn’t be seen by the right people at the right time. 

That’s the best way to look at media planning and I’m glad I learned it early in my career: media is making sure the target audience sees the message at the right time. Without a good plan, the best creative will not be seen by its intended audience.

“A director asked me to ensure at least one of the outdoor posters in the campaign was on his drive home so he could see it...”

Not Spending Budget Wisely

Have you ever seen or heard an ad and thought, “what is that?”. This could be a situation where you’re consuming something atypical for your demographic, or it could be that the ad has been placed haphazardly and that media budget was ill-spent. 

There was that time when I worked client-side and a director asked me to ensure at least one of the outdoor posters in the campaign was on his drive home so he could see it... even though he wasn’t the advertised product’s target audience of 16-24-year-olds heading back to school. That was also ill-spent media (and production) budget.Media planning blog - outdoor example


Media Planners Are Specialists

Media is a specialized area, like creative and account management. Media planners use a combination of data, interpretation, knowledge, and negotiation to get their work done. Here are some the tools and skills we have in our kit: 

  • Data sources include clients, competitors, media outlets, Statistics Canada, Google, post-campaign reports
  • Interpretation using the data to meet the agreed-to objectives. We find the right spot to place the right message so the right person will see it at the right time
  • Experience begets knowledge including both gut-feel and specific facts: In Vancouver, outdoor posters often target pedestrians because of their height and location. In other cities, the same sized posters target drivers
  • Negotiation happens with media partners for positioning, pricing, bonusing, timing. Negotiation also takes place with creative teams, account managers, and clients

A great media plan is created with input from the creative team. That way, the correct medium is recommended to fit the creative concept and campaign objectives. 

 For example, if the message is too long for an outdoor board but the audience over-indexes on outdoor consumption, boards could be used in a complementary way – maybe a teaser message – or an alternate out-of-home tactic could be used. Similarly, if the art director has developed a strong visual concept, radio can become a “considered but not recommended” medium.

Media blog: blocking chart snippet



Staying current with media industry developments takes time and effort. New products are introduced by existing and new media partners, radio stations and publications change formats (and thus audiences), locations and availability fluctuate with seasons.

Maintaining relationships with media partners is another key responsibility of an agency media person. Better rates and placement may be available and if an extra day is needed to deliver creative, a good relationship with the media representative can help.  

Sometimes clients want to plan and buy media themselves. They may have a preferred medium or a friend who works at a radio station who can get them a good rate. They may be subject to personal bias – “I never use public transit so why would I spend money there?” – or not know where to find data about which media the target audience consumes. Some clients want to save money by booking the media themselves.


“A carefully planned – and costly – acquisition strategy ended because of the missed deadline. In media, deadlines are sacred."

For Smaller Campaigns

Even for a small campaign, working with an agency can be advantageous. Recently, a client that doesn’t use paid media bought full-page placements in a monthly national publication for consecutive editions. They wanted to run one ad the first month and a different ad the second month. The person responsible for the buy, however, missed the creative deadline for the second insertion and ended up having to run the original creative. A carefully planned – and costly – acquisition strategy ended because of the missed deadline. In media, deadlines are sacred.

Media blog: publication deadlines

For Bigger Campaigns

For larger campaigns, a media person spends a lot of time handling details beyond planning the campaign and negotiating the best rates. There is a lot of administration involved with placing and managing a buy including:

  • Writing points of view on specific media outlets
  • Creating and issuing insertion orders
  • Reviewing contracts from media partners
  • Creating and maintaining a traffic report, which lists every media outlet, when material is due, and material specifications
  • Creating UTM (urchin tracking module) codes – if using – for digital ads 
  • Sending creative material – ensuring the correct print ad gets to the correct publication, sending the French radio spot to the French radio stations, including UTMs for digital buys 
  • Making sure the number of digital impressions purchased is the number of impressions served  
  • Reviewing and approving invoices 
  • Reviewing campaign reports from media partners 
  • Providing post-campaign reports for clients

Media blog: PO header

So why hire a media planner? For the same reason you hire a creative team: you can rely on their expertise, knowledge, and experience to develop a solution that meets the campaign objectives. In the case of media, you’ll receive a media recommendation that factors the target audience, the creative message, and the timing. Campaign logistics will be managed and reported on, and you will be assured that deadlines won’t be missed. 

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