What does a Media Planner do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

A media planner is an advertising professional who specializes in determining the best placements for advertisements.
A media planner is an advertising professional who specializes in determining the best placements for advertisements.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


In my opinion brand image seems to really impact where media planners place their advertisements. I was watching an episode of a show that featured a lot of glamorous women living the high life, and noticed how many Chanel, Louis Vuitton and expensive cosmetics ads suddenly appeared.

You almost never see ads for these companies, so you can tell that they have a media planner in place to make sure their brand image is being linked to only likeminded programming.

Can anyone think of any other demographic that causes a very abrupt and noticeable shift in the kind of ads aired?


You can really see media planning at work when you watch any shows aimed at teenage girls. It really is amazing how the entire vibe of a channel can change when it comes time to air for a different audience.

Suddenly you are faced with more fashion, accessories, beauty products, and acne medication advertisements than you would ever normally see.

I find it true with sports events as well. If you want to see beer, truck and Nike advertisements, watch a football game.

I think media planners do a fantastic job of targeting their audiences, and leaves no question about who the show you are watching is aimed at.

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