A Day in the Life of a Media VP

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about what keeps marketers up at night. This week, we begin a series on what keeps agency people up.

As a salesperson, your interactions are usually going to be with the media professionals within the agency. A typical agency, whether traditional or interactive, has several levels within the media department.

At the top, there is the vice president of media or the director of media who is responsible for the entire department. Next is the media supervisor who, true to title, supervises the activities of those the next level down, which includes media planners, those who research the potential candidates for the media buy, and the media buyers, who actually execute the buy. In smaller agencies, the planning and buying functions are often performed by the same person.

Now, your day-to-day interactions may be mostly at the media planner and buyer level, but it doesn’t hurt to understand the concerns of the most senior media people at agencies. We’ll start with the VP of media role and work our way down over the next few weeks.

The VP of media in an interactive or traditional agency is under the gun to keep up with a huge, time-intensive workload with unrealistic time-frames. As one would expect in a high-pressure, low-recognition job, many media buyers burn out or move on to greener pastures, so turnover can be considerable.

As a result, the VP of media is constantly looking for qualified planners. And since she often can’t find them, she must figure out how to train new media planners and get them up to speed quickly. Once they’re up to speed, her worries then turn to figuring out how to retain them in an increasingly competitive environment.

Things are no easier from the client side. Often her clients are unsophisticated about buying interactive media and, consequently, focus on the wrong success metrics or put their sole emphasis on low CPM in lieu of other aspects of the buy. They want huge programs developed and executed on increasingly short deadlines. And, of course, they want fabulous results. Every time. And under budget.

In short, the job of a VP of media is, to say the least, challenging. She has to simultaneously train her clients and her staff in the art of strategic media buying.

So, what can you do to help? First, help her move her planners along the learning curve by bringing them relevant information, not just about your site but about online advertising and the media industry in general. Help her retain her staff by not contributing to their burn-out. Meet deadlines if you plan on submitting a proposal. Return their calls promptly. Be respectful of them and don’t contribute to their stress.

Next, the VP of media knows a great idea when she hears one. So cultivate your relationships with media planners so that when you have a great idea, you can enlist their help in getting in front of her to present it. If it’s big, the VP of media will need to be involved in the final decision.

Finally, help educate her clients by developing proposals that speak to the underlying marketing objectives and not just to competing on cost.

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