The Anatomy of a Media Planner


Being a media planner, it’s hard to refer to yourself as a person. We are living, breathing Media Machines and many have no conceptual idea what it is we really do. To make it easier to digest, I have likened our profession to a functional human anatomy…

The Heart (The Consumer)

The Consumer symbolises the heart of every media planner. It is the central focus from which Media Planners pump their ideas and make recommendations throughout the duration of the campaign. The Consumer is like the blood flowing through their veins, helping them live and breathe and circulating an energetic life force to all parts of their system. Just as the heart is the central pivot from which life flows, so too the Consumer provides a focal point from which Media Planner’s thoughts and decisions course through the campaign. Therefore, throughout every campaign, it is vital that the Media Planner respects its heart or Target Audience and understands how it works and how it consumes media. In order to maintain a healthy heart, the Media Planner needs to undertake primary and secondary research, which looks at quantitative and qualitative data*. This may involve researching focus groups, surveying data as a whole and ciphering through information to gain knowledge and insights into the Consumer’s needs and desires. Programmes that can assist this research include; Roy Morgan Data, Etam, Eram and looking at different Helix Personas. Once the Target Audience has been fully analysed the attention of the Media Planner can turn to other aspects of the campaign in order to formulate their media recommendations.*Wine also helps!

The Eyes (Market and Product Analysis)

A Media Planner’s eyes are used to constantly observe and reflect on all relevant research, data and analyses. Once the Media Planner has a good understanding of the Target Audience’s media consumption, they can thoroughly analyse the Market and Product by collating knowledge, which will give them a sound perception of Consumer’s insights and ideas. Whilst the Media Planner investigates these key sectors, the Consumer remains the key driver, steering this research. Throughout this process the eyes are alert and ready to collate and report on competitive data in relation to Media channels where relevant. Unfortunately the eyes of a media planner don’t turn off after work hours, so if we point out an out of home channel and tell you, on average, how many people view it, ignore us!

The Digestive System (Media Objectives and Strategy)

The insights and key findings drawn from the data and research is the food that fuels a Media Planner. A Media planner’s digestive system processes this material into strong strategy development, media objectives and imperatives that stimulate the campaign. This digestive system constantly processes data sifting and sorting until it creates a fuel of good consumer insights and innovative ideas that power the body. The remaining residue of unnecessary data is then ejected asshi… waste.

The Brain (Media Knowledge/Research)

The Brain of a Media Planner is a key compartment that safeguards both prior and new media knowledge. This information is then constantly drawn on throughout the planning of the campaign to make informed decisions and respond effectively to other departments in the campaign team. Additionally, the Brain of a media planner stores all of the known and researched media channels and is able to provide in-depth assessments of all candidate media options as well as detailed recommendations of proposed communication solutions. Furthermore, the Brain of a Media Planner needs to be flexible and open so that it can deduce which media options Consumers prefer. It uses this knowledge to transmit this information and recommend solutions to the Voice of the Media Planner. The Voice then carries these insights to other decision makers in the advertising campaign team.

The Respiratory System (Developing a Media Plan)

A Media Planner’s Breath is like the constant processes involved in developing a Media Plan. These processes identify the creative and innovative media initiatives born out of the strategic media direction and flow to all parts of the system. They carry this oxygen to invigorate the campaign and then expel any redundant material. The in and out pattern of the Breath is synonymous with the in and out pattern of not only how but when media channels will target the audience and how the different channels complement each other. These processes lead to the actual buying in planning media which involves maximising the budget to receive optimum results. This constant inhalation and exhalation of human breath reflects the Media Planner’s constant hunt for market-leading propositions in the core areas of media service delivery and the day to day management and ownership of media implementation processes. This daily inhaling and exhaling replicates the daily processes of ensuring the brief is delivered and brought to plan, within the appropriate criteria that includes; budget, target, market, timing, reach and frequency.

The Voice (Connecting and Communicating)

When all the roles in the advertising campaign merge, the vocal chords of the creative team can sometimes undermine the Voice of the Media Planner. However, the Media Planner’s Voice is effective in translating the media strategy and objectives into detailed plans to combine with other campaign units such as Planners, Creative, Digital and Account Managers. The Media Planner’s Voice is a culmination of recommendations from all the functions of the anatomy. These proposals are informed by Consumer Insights, Target Audiences, Market and Product Analyses, Media Strategies and Objectives and Planning which focuses on different Flighting, Continuous or Pulsing Methods. Additionally, their advice stems from their inherent knowledge of the Media relating to different channels, executions, reach and frequency methods. The Voice, therefore, helps link all the various aspects of the Media Planner’s anatomical advertising campaign functions together. This culmination of knowledge is then used to brief and make recommendations to the Creative, Digital, Planner and Account Managerial teams in order to determine the optimum channel possibilities to reach the Target Audience. Informed decisions, however, are unattainable and a Media Planner’s Voice is silenced unless all these functions work effectively together.

The Immune System (Monitoring and Analysing)

Similarly to humans, the Media Planner’s immune system functions as protector, monitor and evaluator of the plans and processes involved in the campaign. During and post campaign this Media Analysis acts as a defence system that investigates ways to protect the campaign during market activity and reports on media activity consumption post campaign. The Media Planner’s immune system, or Media Analysis, like white blood cells, helps decipher and evaluate future improvements as well as what can be replicated.

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