A Day in the Life of a Good Media Planner

Many subtle details are handled by a good media planner — so much so that you just don’t find them in a series of how-to articles on the subject. We have to visit the habitat of the planner and observe directly. Necessarily, this has to be done in several stages. This week, we’ll attack the project initiation phase of the work.

Our planner gets up fairly early, waiting with her three roommates for her turn in the shower. Some day she’ll go into ad sales and be able to afford her own place, but for now she’s happy for the camaraderie.

She checks her email remotely from the apartment couch to get a jump on the work and discovers that her account team has given her the go-ahead on a large media plan that would have to have started yesterday to be done on time. The client just now signed the contract. Anticipating the delay, she’s already finished the draft of the request for proposal (RFP) and made up a draft list of those to whom it should be sent.

She did this as an afterthought a few weeks ago when she’d just finished the rough plan outline proposal that the account folks took to the client for approval. She forwards these two documents to her media supervisor for “review” but mentions in the message that if she doesn’t hear back in 10 hours, she’s going ahead anyway.

On the bus on the way in to the agency, she makes a mental list of things to do:

  • Make sure the production person, creative person, and traffic person all know the timeline for this campaign — and commit to it.

  • Invent that timeline.
  • Ask around the media department to see if there are other major projects that are falling due just about the same time to prevent impending train wrecks.
  • Call my special sales reps to warn them about several specific needs (that is, favors) I’ll need.
  • Make sure I see the signed copy of the client approval before anything leaves the office, as these “signed” deals have a tendency to regress to “He said so over dinner last night.”

She’ll spend the next couple of hours doing these things. The most important will turn out to be making sure everyone from creative, production, and traffic is anticipating the workload that will be pressed upon each team member come show time. It takes her a couple of hours only because she gets interrupted frequently:

  • Her supervisor told the client the evening before that, yes, it was a great idea to find out how many banners the competition was running in the various sizes. It takes her 5 minutes to show her supervisor how this is fruitless; it takes her 30 minutes to put together the memo anyway.

  • Her boyfriend calls once and emails twice.
  • Four different media planners independently come in to talk for five minutes apiece.
  • Two others come by but are quickly disposed of with her intentional staring at the computer monitor.
  • She answers 12 emails. Three of them are for business. Another 44 get filed into her sales rep folder, most unread.

She spends a half-hour talking to her supervisor. She then spends another half-hour prettifying the initial RFP and plan documents.

She gets hungry. Normally, she’d grab a friend and walk a block down the street to pick up a small lunch. She could have lunch in any of the most expensive restaurants in the city, every day. But she’s just tired of being sold to, and she infrequently takes up reps on their offers. Today’s different, though. She needs to do some special haggling. She invites a particular rep to lunch, where she can feign disinterest until she gets the deal terms she’s looking for.

After 20 minutes of niceties in the office hallways, 10 minutes to get to the restaurant, 90 minutes of eating and talking, and 10 minutes to get back to the office, she finds it’s already 3 p.m.

She has time to finalize the RFP recipient list and blasts it out by 4 p.m. She sits in on a conference call with the client to review the schedules, but she never gets to talk at these events.

At 5 p.m. she plays a game of darts with some creatives on the other side of the floor, then settles in to prepare some Excel spreadsheets for when the RFP responses come back. At 6:30 she hits the streets again, opting for a quiet evening at home in front of the Internet.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “A Day in the Life of a Good Media Planner.”

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