Another Day in the Life of a Good Media Planner

We last left our media planner finishing up the first stages of a new campaign. The client gave approval. She sent out the first RFPs. She even made sure all the other folks at the agency had a heads up — like the traffic and production people.

But the next day, the floodgates open. She has awakened the media-rep hoard.

Before our media planner gets to work the next morning, she has four cell phone messages (she was smart enough to turn her phone off the night before), her roommates tell her three reps called, her voice mail at work is just about full with 18 messages (from 12 reps), and her email shows 38 new messages from people with media-company domain addresses.

She sighs as she steps up onto the bus on her way to work. Today she gets off two blocks early to stop at a Starbucks, and she orders a Venti.

As she walks the remaining distance, she ticks off in her head the triage necessary to manage the rep communications. Her mental list looks like this:

  • She’s already called the people she’s most interested in (particularly those from whom she’s asking favors) before the RFP went out. She has appointments with these folks already, but she wants to make sure to return their calls.

  • The people who called back because she sent them an RFP obviously need to get their messages returned.
  • The others? Well, she has to admit to herself that she’s really curious to know how they smelled the money and came out of the woodwork so darn quickly — almost enough to call them back. She decides, instead, to call up just a sampling of them.

She doesn’t know this yet, but some of the reps on the RFP list (actually, just more than half of them) owed favors to other reps, and they passed on some of the information from the RFP to people who weren’t on the list. Everyone thought it would just seem like a handy coincidence if the errant site reps happened to call on the day after an RFP was unleashed.

By noon she manages to call back all the “important” reps. The tough part is trying not to insult them all while turning down their offers for lunch and dinner. She just wants the facts.

She spends lunch talking mostly business over Italian food with one of the “important” reps she called before the RFP went out. This salesperson might not even quite comprehend his special status. After all, it really wouldn’t help the price much for him to believe his media was special to her.

The conversation winds its way to CPMs. Once she has him committing to a rough range, she then lets him in on some of the secrets. She knows this will hurt her negotiating position, but she’s sticking her neck out thinking that he might be able to get her even better targeting if he really knows what she’s trying to achieve.

One out of four times it works, and the salesperson is able to concoct something special — perhaps a certain inventory package or the application of a special targeting technology. Most times it just puts her over the barrel in the price negotiations. Reps who do this to her don’t get let in on the secrets the next time around.

After lunch, she starts filling in her pre-prepared spreadsheets to compare the different rates from the different sites. Another column on the spreadsheet includes the various creative sizes and other production specs. Some of the sites failed to include this information. She leaves them off the list. If she has time, she’ll email them one more time, but most likely she’ll just leave them off.

She knocks off at 4 p.m. The production folks are playing Doom over the Net against a large creative team at J. Walter Thompson. She joins in until dark, then heads home in a cab feeling somehow very empty. She’s spent the day with 40 people trying to get at something that she didn’t own, but something that she controlled. She looks forward to the execution stage.

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