Presenting a game u play with numbers:\r\n\r\nBehind the scenes, Until 10 years ago, the media department in an advertising agency was considered to be a boring back room service with no sub departments for buying, selling and operations.\r\n\r\nBut then in those days the media vehicles were also restricted to general publications and Doordarshan. Then came the 1990s with satellite television, FM radio, internet – a plethora of media options. Advertisers (esp the MNCs) started demanding accountability for every naya paisa spent. And so media planning was born. Every client said to his agency, “Yeh dil maange more”. This increased the demand to plan budgets effectively and smartly. It’s like a housewife budgeting expenses not only to make ends meet, but to also save for the rainy day. Throw six to start play. Any ad, however creative, will make an impact only if it’s seen by the right people (the ones who may want to buy your product). And not just a few, but lots and lots of the right people.\r\nA media planner’s game starts with the client servicing executive presenting a media brief stating the marketing objectives of the client. For gaining maximum mileage the planner will try : a) to reach the ad out to more number of people (target market) b) and/ or ensure the ad is seen frequently by the target audience (OTS-Opportunity To See). Of course, all this depends on the client’s budget and who exactly are his potential customers (youth? yuppies? new moms??) It makes no sense to advertise Kunwar Ajay sarees in JAM magazine, but that’s common sense. \r\n\r\nThe planner has to go way beyond that. Using available information as well as gut feelings, he/ she works out the best possible media choices. A media planner has to make big decisions (whether to advertise on Star Sports or DD during a cricket match), as well as small ones (should we pay 50% extra for a page 3 position in Midday). Of course, the more money you have to spend the more ad space you can buy. But, there are many cases where bad planning can result in your budget going down the drain with hardly anyone noticing your ad at all! And just because it ain’t your money you can’t gamble with it. You have to justify why and where you’re spending it. \r\n\r\nAfter a great deal of calculation and judgement, a plan is formulated to present to the client. This will usually include print (papers & mags), electronic (TV, radio), outdoor (hoardings), events etc. The plan will go into details like the size of the ad, B/W or colour, number of insertions, circulation of the publications chosen and finally the cost. Similarly an electronic plan will consist of the above variables with ref. to TV spots. A few years ago there was no distinction between the planning and buying departments. Since the satellite invasion, the situation has became so complex that there are now separate job functions with respect to planning and buying. Once the plan is approved by the client with hazaar changes as per his whims and fancies, the game is relayed to the buying department for purchasing space/time slots. This often involves a great deal of arm-twisting and haggling (fish market style), esp with respect to TV where the competition is intense.\r\nThe scheduling department plays the role of back checking the final releases as per the approved plan (making sure the ad/commercial is actually printed or aired…. nahin to bahut gadbad ho jayega na). This ensures no false billing, and efficiency on behalf of the agency. Qualifying round Media planning is now a sought after specialization which is attracting some of the best brains. Academically you must be a BSc/ MSc (Maths or Stats) or an MBA graduate from a reputed ins\r\n\r\ntitute. MICA, Ahmedabad offers a specialization in media planning and these grads are very much in demand. The MICA qualification should elevate your chances of climbing the corporate ladder quickly. Otherwise take the stairs by joining a small/medium sized agency to reach the top. A different ball game altogether As a planner you should have excellent number crunching skills and understand the basic research on various media vehicles. Extrovert, patient to the last digit and insomnia are a must to excel in this rat race. Every digit you put on paper will either make your client or break him. That applies to you too. Your statistics should be perfect. And here we are not talking about vital statistics. (If need be we’ll discuss that after hours – ha ha).\r\n\r\nA large amount of a planner’s time is spent in working out various permutations and combinations using a computer. There’s no programming required though, plenty of software is available. A good understanding of human nature and behavior also helps because often you have to use your judgment, as the TRPs (television rating points) and readership surveys aren’t enough. That is why big agencies regularly send their media people to Rajkot, Meerut and even small villages, to understand better how people actually live and think in different parts of India.\r\n\r\nWith the rural markets booming, this is very important training for city bred planners! Bonus points Since meeting reps of various media is part of your job function, free subscriptions of known and unknown publications land on your table like junk mail. Invitations to media seminars & meets (read parties & free booze) is a regular feature and it’s important to attend them for gauging the market. Jumping to the next level Like an account management executive, you too can switch sides and team up with the client, as a brand manager. Your other options are to service clients as a media consultant, or join the in-house media depts of cos like HLL, P&G, Godrej, etc. on their FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) products. So, are you game to be Planner No.1??