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A media planner is an advertising professional who specializes in determining the best placements for advertisements. Media planners work with their clients to develop a media strategy which will position their brand well and reach the appropriate target market. Some media planners work for advertising agencies, others as independent consultants, and others for firms which specialize in media planning services exclusively.
Special training is not required to become a media planner, although a college degree in advertising or a related field can be beneficial. Many media planners learn on the job, starting out in low positions and gradually working their way up the ranks as they gain experience and demonstrate competence. People skills are critical for this job, as is the ability to accurately identify demographics, and the ability to cut to the core of a company's mission and products to determine how the company could be best positioned for maximum sales.
Television owners may have noted that advertising tends to follow certain patterns. Advertisements for feminine hygiene products and erectile dysfunction medication, for example, don't appear on children's shows. Promotions for sporting events tend not to air with soap operas, while perfume ads are rare on baseball broadcasts. This is because media planners have evaluated the demographics enjoying these types of programs, and they have determined which types of programming would be most appropriate for the products they are marketing.
A media planner does more than just determining which kinds of demographics would be most interested in particular products. They also think about the specific programming which will be airing with their ads, which can require a media planner to review scripts and screener copies of media as part of their work to identify potentially problematic ad placement situations. For example, an ad for asthma medication might not be well received if it aired during an hour-long medical drama which featured a patient dying of severe asthma. Likewise, an advertisement from a company marketing to a conservative demographic should not air during a program which featured a liberal stance on an event or situation, because this might offend the demographic the company is trying to reach.
A media planner must think beyond basic demographic needs and consider brand image. While many products can be marketed generically to a large group of people, such as teenage girls or middle aged men, narrowing in on a specific demographic of interest can sometimes yield better results. Media planners think about how their brands should be positioned in the market, what kind of messages they want to send with advertising, and what sort of media programming their ads would pair with best.