In this three part series, we’ll review the characteristics and skills that can make you an effective media planner and buyer, or if you are an advertiser, a discerning buyer of media services! A quick note – my perspective is from a smaller agency where the lines between planning and buying are often blurred. Your results may vary if you are working at or with a large buying shop.

Media, like any profession, requires skilled individuals to produce results. Inevitably, these skills fall into two categories: hard and soft.

Hard skills are the technical skills required to do a task or job with competence and excellence. These skills are typically learned through school or “training”. Soft skills are often inherent to the individual and reflect more hard wired, ingrained personality traits. They are also considered less “trainable” to such an extent that many companies (including Vector Media) try to hire for soft skills and then train for any missing or required hard skills.

In the first and second posts we’ll look at the hard skills required of an effective media professional. In Part 3 we’ll look the soft skills that are important in delivering innovative and effective media services.

Hard Skills Basics

Media Knowledge: Whether a media generalist or a mobile media wizard – the planner and buyer needs to be very knowledgeable about all media channels. At minimum, this requires constant monitoring of relevant and credible business and advertising / media publications, blogs, and bookmarking sites (such as

Consumer Behaviour: Advertising is a critical elements of the marketing ecosystem that revolves around the customer. Media strategists need to understand more than just audience consumption data or web analytics. They need to have a deep understanding of target audience media trends, behaviours and preferences. This information is often gained through proprietary research and in-depth investigation and requires the ability to slice and dice significant amounts of data (see analytical skills).

Business and Marketing Knowledge: A media plan is an extension of the marketing plan and a brand’s positioning. Media planners should be knowledgeable in marketing fundamentals, with specific knowledge of the theory and application of positioning strategy, as well as current thinking and practices in brand building, related consumer buying, brand engagement and behaviour models.

Math Skills: Surprisingly this is often overlooked. I don’t mean basic addition, subtraction, etc. I mean the ability to do fundamental statistics, use spreadsheets, understand the measurement of change, and statistical significance. And, if not now then soon the norm, be a math minor or know how to conduct optimization and modeling (regression, predictive analysis etc.).

Analytical Skills: With the increase in data available from on-line and off-line publishers, media planners must have an understanding of traditional media analytics such as market and brand development indices, media weight analysis, post-buy analyses, etc. If you are planning multi-channel and / or digital campaigns, you need a detailed understanding of web metrics and related analytical tools. This will allow you to assess, manipulate and extract meaning from data. It’s not just which option is cheapest, but what might be most effective?

To be continued in Part 2