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Career Path of a Media Buyer/Analyst

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I was approached by the media director when there was an opening in one of the planning groups, and asked if I was interested in moving into planning. I jumped at the chance. I spent some time planning, and within a few years I became a media supervisor and then an associate media director. I am still working in planning and getting more and more experience in terms of dealing with the clients and different types of products, new product introduction, rollouts, and everything that goes into media planning. I really enjoy it. I've been at the agency for eight years now, and that's pretty unusual, because in this business, there is a heavy turnover of personnel.

If an opportunity to move into a media director position in another agency came up, I imagine I would leave, because I feel that is ultimately my goal. It would depend on the circumstances. If I felt that I was still being challenged here and given new opportunities, the title is not all that important. I feel there is too much emphasis put on titles. It's really funny, because what a planner is doing in one agency can be comparable to what a supervisor is doing in another agency. It just depends on the structure of the agency.

I started out as a secretary in the media department. I did that for a month, and then I was promoted to assistant buyer. Approximately eight months later, I was then promoted to a buyer and did that until December of this year, when I was promoted to a buying supervisor. That progression varies; it depends on people leaving and departments expanding as new accounts are acquired. Our agency tries to promote from within, but if there aren't enough qualified or experienced employees, it will hire from the outside. It varies for each individual. If you work hard and they want to keep you, then they're going to try to make it worth your while.

A planner puts together a proposal; then the buyer takes the proposal after it's been approved, goes to the stations, and makes the my. In the process of making the buy, the buyer must be a good negotiator in order to get the best rates and make the most cost-efficient decision for the client.

I got a degree in broadcast communications. I went to work in a local radio station in a small town with my long-term career objective as a general TV station manager. I worked for that radio station for a short time and went to work for a CBS affiliate in another city as a local salesperson. I worked there for about a year and then took a job with a CBS affiliate in another town for about two years; all local sales. I had a general manager who said, "I think you have learned just about as much as you can learn in local sales. I think it's time, if you're still considering that general sales manager position or a general manager position down the road, to diversify your exposure. What you should do is try to get a job as a national rep." So at that point I put together my resume and went to New York and Chicago and interviewed with various rep firms. That's how I ended up here.

The media business is a transient business. There are not very many people who stay with the company for any length of time, maybe three, four, or five years. Basically, to move up from a lower end position, you usually have to go to another place, or you can sit it out and wait your turn where you are.

Q - Why are starting salaries in advertising notoriously low?

A - Because they are training you. Why should a company spend $14,000 training you, when you're costing them money? You make mistakes and have to do things over; you are wasting space and time; you have to ask people how to do things, and they must show you how to di things. They are seeing if you're going to work out. They want you U prove to them that you're worth the money.

In 1978 my salary was $8,400. Promoting from within does not pay as high as you would like. It now is $18,600, which is still bad that's about $8,000 under what I should be making. I'm still in tin learning game. I enjoy it here, I'm comfortable, I've got a good title and position, and I'm getting experience. I've interviewed elsewhere, but haven't found anything I've wanted. Money is not the most important thing. You've got to like getting up every morning and going in and enjoy the people you work with.

Q - What are some of your responsibilities?

A - The media department is one of the spokes of the agency, and they are responsible for the placement of commercial executions. In that respect they are responsible for the largest amount of money, as far as the agency business is concerned. About 90 percent of every client dollar is spent on media, whether it's TV, network, spot, magazines, or whatever. Almost all agency income comes from media placement. The actual commercial is a portion of the remaining 10 percent. In the media department, you do two things. First, you plan, which means that you're given a budget for a year and on the basis of certain things that you know about the brand-who buys it, when it's bought, and who uses it-you develop a media plan or schedule. That schedule might say that you want to spend so much money during the spring, because the product is a sun cream and that's when it's used and that's when we can get people's attention. For baking products, we want to advertise heavily in the fall for the holidays. You develop a schedule that includes broadcast, whether it's radio or TV, and maybe some print. You tell the client how you think that money can best be spent to maximize the exposure of their product to the proper target market. That's the planning phase.
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