Research Tips for Landing a First Online Media Job

Recently I had a job candidate come in for an entry-level position, and she was very interested in working in the online media planning and buying department. She was clearly a very bright candidate who was fresh out of school, but unfortunately she wasn’t conversant in the standard terms and technologies associated with the trade.

Now, we don’t expect entry-level people to come in knowing everything. But candidates have come in who know the fundamentals of online media and marketing, either through school or independent research, and can at carry on a conversation about it.

I gave the candidate a list of things to research on her own and invited her to contact us once she had become more familiar with the field. I realized this is a great list for entry-level candidates. Media planning and buying is all about independent research and being able to grasp complex advertising concepts and technologies. Between the vendor sites; media sites like ClickZ, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), SlideShare, YouTube, and Wikipedia; and search engines, there is more than enough info out there for candidates to get at least partially up to speed on this stuff. Frankly, this is the stuff colleges and universities should be teaching to their advertising and marketing students.

The Basics

  • Know all standard IAB banner ad units. Know their sizes, specs, and names.
  • Know the basic e-mail ad products, like e-mail rentals and newsletter sponsorships.
  • Know the major sites that would be right for the clients of the agency you’re interviewing at. If the agency has a high tech company client, for example, what sites cater to IT professionals? What about a cosmetics company? What are the top sites that cater to women?
  • Know what rich media is. Check out PointRoll and EyeWonder.
  • Get a firm grasp on online video and know what pre-rolls and post-rolls are.
  • Know what a banner server is and what the process of campaign optimization is. Check out DART, MediaPlex, and Atlas DMT.
  • Know what ad networks are. Check out Burst Media, ValueClick, Platform-A and the Google’s ad network.
  • Know the basic metrics of online media: impressions, clicks, click rates, action rates, conversion rates, and interaction rates.
  • Know the financial/performance/ROI (define) metrics, like CPM (define), CPC (define), CPA (define), cost per lead (CPL), cost per sale (CPS), and of course simple ROI and marketing return on investment (MROI).
  • Know basic targeting and setting parameters, like run of site (ROS), run of network (RON), demographic targeting, hyper-targeting (on profiled site like Facebook), geotargeting, dayparts, and frequency caps.
  • Know what a cookie is and the different types, such as persistent cookies. Know how cookies are used in tracking.
  • Know the major trade shows and organizations. Try to attend ad:tech even if you can just afford to walk the floor. If you live in Boston, join BIMA.
  • Know basic contract terms, such as rate card, insertion order, cancellation clause, and value add.
  • Know the basic of SEM (define) and how it integrates with online media. Know about Google AdWords, Yahoo Search, and even keyword ad placements like IntelliTXT. It wouldn’t hurt to know what SEO (define) is, either.
  • Subscribe to the major media sites newsletters, such as ClickZ and IAB.


  • Know the syndicated data, index, and research services, such as Nielsen Online, and what they report.
  • Understand underlying technologies that enable rich media, ad serving, and tracking, like Flash, tracking tags, pixel requests, retargeting, and dashboards.
  • Research nonstandard placements, like home page blocks, peel backs, social engagement ads, Facebook application sponsorships, whitepaper syndication, coregistration, advertorials, and in-video ads.
  • Know which services enable awareness studies and polling, such as Dynamic Logic and InsightExpress.
  • Understand what ad exchanges are and how they fit into the online media environment.
  • Look down the road and talk about mobile and cable TV and Internet integration and what impact that will have on interactive advertising. Check out companies like Quattro Wireless and Navic.

There’s so much more I could go on about, but for any person entering the industry this is plenty to research and absorb. This may seem like a lot to a recent college grad to research, but if you walk into an interview knowing even a portion of the list, your chances of landing the job will go way up. If a person walked in conversant in the above list, I would not only hire her, I would start her at a higher salary. The ROI on the time spent doing this research would be huge.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center. Learn the ins and outs of SEM, including site optimization, link-building tactics, pay-per-click advertising, and landing-page testing and tuning to ensure high conversion rates.

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