Quit Whining About 23-Year-Old Media Planners

Keep Complaining About Buying Silos: Advice to Media Owners

By Published on .

A lot has changed since I first began observing this business nearly 20 years ago, but one thing has remained depressingly (boringly) consistent: Complaints from media sales executives about the impossibility of dealing with the mythically disinterested/uneducated 23-year-old media planner. I swear I was under 23 when I first heard a magazine seller whine, "Unless you're Spy magazine, these kids don't read you and you can't get them to understand you or recommend you for the plan." TV networks said the same thing about MTV.

Now I'm 40 (yeah, I can't believe it, either), and about once a week I hear the same sentence, only now with Facebook or MySpace substituting for Spy and MTV.

Yes, yes, and we all used to walk to school every day 10 miles, uphill --both ways-- in the snow, with rags tied around our feet.

Really, cut it out. This kind of blanket statement is untrue and insulting, to the professionalism and strategic smarts of good media planners, but also to their bosses and clients. Ultimately, it's just another excuse. If you can't easily articulate to a media planner of any age why your product stands apart, how it connects with its audience and why it belongs on a particular plan, you're the one with the problem.

A 23-year-old male planner whose client wants to reach 40-year-old women isn't going to recommend product placements in "Halo 3." If he did, he'd be out of work pretty quickly.

Yes, there are issues with the lack of adequate training at many agencies, the high turnover rate among young planners, and the amount of work and pressure put on the shoulders of people in effectively entry-level positions. But if that's always been true, why are we still complaining about it? Accept the reality of the business, and figure out how to best deal with it. Pointing fingers instead of accepting accountability can make media sellers seem more immature than even the youngest 23-year-old.

Having said all that, there's one criticism of media agencies that sellers need to remain vocal about. Just about every client demands that sellers bring them ideas rather than inventory, and to sell across platforms. But few media agencies are able to evaluate such concepts and wind up breaking them back into individual parts, evaluating print over here and digital over there, etc. Some shops have begun to address this, but others still have too many silos. Time for clients and agencies to back their words with action and establish structures able to evaluate and buy what smart media owners are selling.
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