I read a recent article that touted the benefits of hiring a seasoned media planning team. When I first discovered this piece online, I was gratified to find such a favorable perspective about my chosen discipline. Despite the fact that the author’s perspective was neither game-changing nor unique, it did lift my spirits. Just the fact that it had been written was a good sign. Reality is, I don’t see as many articles written about the field of paid media planning and buying as I do for other aspects of the advertising industry.
When I got started in the advertising business, most of the agencies in Portland, Maine, housed internal media planning and buying teams. In fact, my first step away from the receptionist desk and up the career ladder was towards the media department just down the hall. My boss at the time had generously offered me a spot anywhere in his firm, and perhaps to his surprise, I chose media over the more glamorous options of account service or creative. All these years later, I continue to enjoy my focus on this branch of the business.
I’ve built my firm’s identity on media planning and buying. In the four years since we opened our doors, we’ve reinforced the integrity of our business model many times over. I’m enormously grateful to our growing list of clients and agency partners whose willingness to join forces with us proves that there’s a huge need for professionals with our expertise in the marketplace.
We’ve found our niche, and along the way, we have partnered with some terrific people. I feel optimistic about our future. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three challenges that we continue to face, despite our bullish outlook:
1. Media planning doesn’t enjoy the same perceived value as creative. There, I said it. Every facet of the advertising business has a certain secret sauce. It’s the unique thing we sell, the service we provide, the deliverable. Even so, I’m occasionally asked to give away free media advice. Comments like, “Can’t you just give me a few ideas on where to run our ads?” Or “I already know all about advertising. I’ve boosted posts on Facebook before.” Really, folks? That’s the equivalent of asking a professional designer to sketch out a few logo ideas on a cocktail napkin just for fun — and then actually using one of them! Bottom line? A comprehensive media plan is not a giveaway; it reflects a planner’s experience, industry knowledge, and expertise.
2. Lots of people would rather skip the strategic intake process. I get it! We all want to get to the answers as quickly as possible, but first, we need to take the time to ask the right questions! In order for us to provide the most strategically-sound media recommendations, we must insist that our clients and partner teams come together — at least once, ideally in person — for a strategic intake session. It’s worth the time and energy and the cost for us to facilitate it. The few times we’ve acquiesced and not completed an intake session, we’ve found ourselves without a strategic foundation to build upon and as a result, media campaign outcomes have suffered.
3. Campaign management should be an active, engaged, and ongoing effort. When you work with us, we won’t ever sell you a media plan, “set it and forget it,” and walk away. We bring value to our relationships by staying involved and continually observing, optimizing, and reporting on media metrics for the duration of the campaign. We share what we learn from the data, which helps our clients and partners better understand how to manage expectations and improve results.
Ad industry trends lean toward fewer agencies housing internal media teams. More and more client-side teams are bringing their marketing services in-house, indicating a growing demand for our dedicated model. We partner with all sorts of marketing teams: creative, branding, PR, web, and others. The common thread between our partners is that they don’t have the high level of strategic media expertise that only a seasoned media director delivers. When we’re on the team, we are the ones to showcase how different facets of paid media campaigns perform and how multiple media tactics work together to achieve our clients’ marketing goals.
I know that there are still misunderstandings about what we do and the value we bring to the development of an advertising campaign. As agency owner and media director, it’s up to me to consistently deliver high-performing media strategies. The best way to communicate our worth, while turning up the volume on our talent, is to do our best work each and every time.
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