Talking to all walks of life has always attracted me. I love finding out what other people do for a living and how they view their lives. Hearing stories and experiences from others humbled me and allowed me to see from a different perspective.

Today, we have Andrew, a digital media planner – one of the popular careers in this century and it is my honour to dig out the details of his work life and understand what it is like to be an expert in digital media.

Please introduce yourself and where you are from?

Hi, my name is Andrew. I live in Warsaw, Poland. I started my career in digital media four years ago. After over a year in smaller digital agencies, I decided to enter the corporate world and joined a big media house as a digital media planner.

What is a digital media planner, and what does the job entail?

Your job can be very different depending on your department and the client you work for. Generally speaking, you are responsible for recommending where you think it is best to allocate the advertising budget in the media you are responsible for.

For example, if you are a digital planner working in the programmatic ad buying department, you first get a description from a client or your firm’s client service department of what the client wants. The next step is to review the options for reaching the audience the client has defined as his key consumers. After that, you recommend the best option or a mix of the best suitable options with a budget split between those options and explain why you think it’s the recommended solution.

You can also be a digital planner responsible for client service, which means you compile information from different departments, like Facebook ad-buying department, Search engine ad-buying department, and present it to the client.

How do you become a digital media planner?

You don’t need any degree to start as a media assistant – this is the starting position for a person who wants to begin a media planning journey.

Although, in your CV, it will help show you are already interested in the subject and are already taking steps in this direction. You’ve got to put yourself in your possible employer’s shoes.

No one wants to hire a person who only thinks they can do the job but has done nothing to check if they are actually interested in the subject. That kind of person will have a high probability of leaving the job after one or three months and the time spent on training goes to waste.

Employers want to maximise the likelihood of you staying in the firm. The candidate has to have some knowledge about the media already, maybe attend a so-called small conference about advertising (there are free ones), taking classes about the psychology of advertising, or marketing. Watching YouTube videos about advertising from people working in the field or professors teaching about advertising/media could be listed in the courses part of your resume.

Everything on your resume should show that you are competent for the position you applied for in a given firm in the industry.

Every company receives countless resumes every day. Making a mistake during hiring may cost the company a fortune. Therefore, every company wants to maximise the possibility of making the right choice.

Knowing someone who is already working in the business and can recommend you is a great asset. This “trick” is great for the company because, from a psychological standpoint, those people will strive harder to work well because they don’t want to let down the person that recommended them.

Firms use that “phenomenon” to spend less money, frustrate their workers less (cause of lost time in training), and generally create a more friendly environment. This is because, according to statistics, when you are grateful to someone for recommending you, you will be more upbeat at work.

As to skillsets, it is a must to work with numbers. You need to be curious about what they mean. When you get results from a media campaign, you will be required to compare them to different campaigns. You will work a lot in the Microsoft Office environment, mainly in Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook. It would be good to familiarise yourself with those programs well before you even apply for the job. 

Another skill is working with other people. Knowing how to communicate in e-mails is essential. Your tone of voice or facial expression does not accompany your message. You need to be aware of that and re-read your e-mails to avoid conveying something you don’t want.

Sometimes we all write a sentence that sounds okay, but after re-reading it, we realise that we have to change the wording so that the sentence sounds better. It is part of your job every day, so you need to get accustomed to checking if what you write is what you mean exactly.

So, why do you choose to work as a digital media planner?

I was studying psychology, and there was this one class about psychology in advertising. It was a lecture. During that class, we were shown numerous ads. There was always a discussion afterwards about what was done in that ad. There was also some introduction to how advertising works and what it does. The lecturer was working in this industry and could share stories about how this business worked. I was hooked.

The following semester, I looked for classes that were connected to advertising. The great thing was that they were also led by a person working in the industry. This was a clear signal to me that it was what I wanted to do.

What is it like working in a media house? 

I heard numerous negative stories about working in a corporation. I’m sure we all saw some movies about bad things that can happen in a big ugly corporation world. I will be singing the other way.

I liked working in a media house. There was this emphasis that came from directors to managers and senior staff, that communication is essential. People were always trying to convey their message pleasantly.

If something went wrong, no one would be mad. Instead, we would discuss what could be done better. It was crucial to me that it would be like that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

There was also an emphasis on knowing and explaining why we recommend a solution to the client, articulate it clearly, and make it almost like a story. One step leads to the next. Everything is logical and flows from the previous thought. The recommendation always needed to be sensible. Therefore, we challenged our assumptions to make our offers better.

It is also essential to be exact and on time. Whatever you create needs to be precise and to the point. It may feel like pressure, but a media planner needs to understand the need to show the best way possible to spend the media budget. Since you are recommending spending real money, there comes responsibility with it.

What is it like working with your clients?

Your clients are usually a marketing department of a firm that sells goods. They spend a small amount of time on media (5-15% of their job is handling media). They are pressed for time, and you are their media outsourcing.

You need to know what you are recommending exactly and why. Your clients need to understand what you mean by the activities you recommend and how this translates to their marketing department goals. This means that they want the shortest answers possible that are explained clearly.

Knowing your clients and recommending solutions to help them understand why you chose a particular path of action without boring them with too many details becomes an art.

Is there any difference between working with big global companies versus local smaller firms?  

I want to say that Microsoft Excel looks the same in every media company. There isn’t that much of a difference in day-to-day operations if you work in a big or a small company. Although, big corporate clients usually choose big companies to work with. So, if you want to work with big budgets for well-renowned brands, you need to work in a big company.

Every company is different. Therefore, you can’t know beforehand how working in one is like until you start working there. However, it is riskier when it comes to a pleasant work environment, especially when you work in a smaller company. This is because, in such a company, the boss sets the tone of the whole company.

This person can be a great manager or not, and to this person, everyone else kind of “looks up to” them as an example. In a big company, almost everyone is responsible for their actions. This creates an environment where people feel more accountable for their actions.

I should also point out that media companies are more casual in dressing and speech. They also have an easy-going overall atmosphere. However, what I say may be restricted only to media and advertising.

How do you handle demanding clients or impossible requests? 

In this industry, it’s normal to curse in front of the monitor or even say to the whole room what an incredible e-mail you have just received. Therefore, what comes first is the reaction and sharing of your difficulties with coworkers.

You can quickly discuss with your manager how long you want to delay the requested difficult task so that it will get done but will not interfere with essential duties. You can also try to negotiate the deadline with the client (often, the suggested date of delivery by the client is way too close to the received e-mail) or try to convince the client that you can deliver something a little different that will suit his needs.

All moves are on the table as long as you remain respectful and cooperative, making it a bit of an art to say “no”. There are also times to say “hard no,” which is always discussed with the manager to avoid surprising him or her with news about it.

Still, we explain why we can’t do something or why it’s out of our scope of work.

Please share with us any interesting stories or people you have encountered at work? 

We had two creative meetings about a concept for a campaign with a creative agency, PR company, and of course, the clients’ marketing team.

As a media planner, you are more of a silent listener on those meetings because it’s not your area of expertise unless you have numbers to back up what you say. When the creative team kept working after those two 2 hour meetings spread throughout two weeks, we pitched in from the media side. We did some analysis and created a consumer journey. However, it turned out that the concept was not accepted by the higher-ups, and we had to start over. All this work was for nothing.

There are times when the client doesn’t have time to answer you because you are not on his list of priorities (as I mentioned, you take 5-15% of his work time) even though you keep sending e-mails about the need to accept the materials for the campaign.

Without that, the campaign can’t start. There was a certain campaign that was supposed to run at once on multiple channels. Instead, TV broadcasts happened in one period, and articles on websites and YouTube campaigns in another period. This was all because of the client’s delays that you can’t do anything about.

There are some stories I can’t share, but they show that the work in the industry is even more enjoyable.

What is the career prospect of this job?

Eventually, you can get promoted to a manager position, and after a couple of years, to a director that handles many clients or one big client with many managers that report to you. 

Many people go from a media house to the client’s side, not necessarily the one they have been working for. After getting at least a specialist position in a media house, they get hired either in the marketing department or in the digital department on the client’s side that is part of the marketing team.

I’ve had one friend from my media team taking a digital analyst position that required advanced statistics and some programming knowledge. That was what she was interested in, and she devoted her private time to broadening her horizons in that department. She was a senior specialist and was looking for this particular job for a year while working in media.

So there are many paths. It’s not that you have to be in media for the rest of your life. Media can be a step on your way. You can deepen your knowledge in some other area and then combine what you learned in media to switch to different work paths.

What stresses you in your job? Why do you think so?

If you are in client service, then the need to present the results or general public speaking can be stressful because you are pressed for time, and you don’t have that much time to prepare. Even though a PowerPoint presentation will look well-prepared, there won’t be much time to rehearse unless you do it at home. 

There could also be some political-like game in the client’s team. There is the person in marketing that you work with closely, and this person has his or her boss too. So, sometimes the client may not respond to e-mails because they don’t have time. Therefore, you have to remind yourself politely when there will be a meeting with the director, and you also have to defend your company and your work.

Sometimes, the director may ask why there is a delay. In such a case, you must not entirely blame the marketing specialist who works closely with you and not take the blame either. It’s an art that looks like balancing on a rope and can be stressful.

If you are a specialist in one area and don’t work directly with the client’s marketing team, there will often be situations when you are pressed for time. It can be stressful because, on the one hand, you want to finish the task fast, meet the deadline, and on the other hand, you have to defend why you do something logically. Therefore, you need to stop and think if there is a better way to do it, and even after you finish that task, there will be other tasks waiting.

Numerous steps are already set on how to do the. It’s not like creative writing, where you create everything from scratch.

However, you need to be able to defend your choices for the campaign and have explanations as to why things go the way they go, have examples of other movements and understand what a standard, expected result is.

This responsibility can be stressful.

How do you find satisfaction in your work?

I like that I am “creating the reality,” that I recommend something that is the best solution and can defend my position. The ads I create are viewed because I recommended them. I like knowing the expected results. I like thinking about how to refine results and problem-solving.

I also like to work in a team (in my firm and with the client’s team) because it feels like we’re in a soccer team fighting for the best result together. I also like numbers, drawing conclusions, and understanding what they mean.

There is also a sense of satisfaction that comes from the client’s attitude toward you. After some time, you create a relationship that relies on trust because you repeatedly proved that you know what you are talking about and what you are doing. 

For me, passion is being interested in what I do, caring about what I am creating, and being satisfied with the value I bring to the table.

If you were not a digital media planner, what do you think you could have become? 

If I were not a digital media planner, I would have become a right-hand man of a CEO, maybe a chief of operations. I like problem-solving and thinking outside the box, but I need the box. I need to know all the possibilities and solutions, which have to be finite. Then, it’s easier for me to create something new. I prefer so-called closed problems.

Any last words for someone who aspires to be a digital media planner?

Get as much info as you can before even applying. Try as much as you can, work in programs that are required, and know them well. Read about the average results of digital campaigns and the budget split in your country per digital medium. That will tell you if it interests you and if you are likely to be interested in working in media. 

In an interview, one scientist in my country was asked what makes a person focus more on some things and not so focused on others. He said that it’s all about if you are interested in what is in front of you.

If you are, you will be focused longer on this task than an average person, and that over time will build-up, so you will learn faster than others. I believe that’s what talent is. It’s nothing magical. It’s just interest that creates more focus. So, find what makes you more focused and pursue that path.

About Andrew :

After finishing high school, I started studying at the Warsaw University of Technology. However, I figured out that math was fun only until high school, so I quit and went to finish Social Clinical Psychology. That’s when I saw how exciting advertising is for me and chose that path, first in performance marketing agencies and then in a media house. I’m satisfied with my job because I’m curious about what I’m doing every day.

11 replies on “Interview with a Digital Media Planner

  1. Whilst reading it I couldn’t stop my head from nodding – each paragraph is so well put out. Andrew seems to be having a lot of valuable experience. Best of luck to him and people like me who want be our better selves everyday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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