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Media planning: Increasing demand for media planners

media plannersWith media prices having risen sharply in post-liberalisation India, even as the number of publications and television channels multiply, media planning has become a critical knowledge-based function.

In the contemporary age of advertising clutter, choosing the optimal media mix for advertising products and services is a complex business.

Contrary to popular opinion, advertising is not all glamour and glitz. A great deal of research, planning, and behind the scenes work is required and media planners play a critical role. With media prices having risen sharply in post-liberalisation India (a 12 cm X 3 column black and white advertisement in the Times of India, Mumbai, or a full page colour cover ad in India Today could set an advertiser back by Rs.178,200 and Rs.11,30,000 respectively, and a 10-second spot on Star TV could cost Rs.84,000), even as the number of publications and television channels proliferate, media planning or purchasing has become a critical, knowledge-based function within the marketing mix.

In the good old pre-liberalisation era, simple demographics helped advertisers to target specific audiences for products and services on the basis of incomes and geography. But with media multiplication and diversification into television channels, radio stations, FM radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, scientific choice and weightage accorded to each medium and/or publications and channels within each medium has become vitally important for advertisers to ensure that they get the utmost bang for their advertising outlays.

Within this incrementally complex scenario, the onus is upon media planners to devise an advertising media mix which will generate maximum sales or influence. Typically, a media planner works in close consultation with account managers and creative staff in the clients advertising agency.

A media planners work involves gathering information on the publics media reading and viewing habits. Research provides information and statistical data based on which media choices for advertising products and services are made. Media planners also evaluate editorial content and programming to determine the potential use of media. They calculate the numbers and types of people reached by competing print publications and television channels. Computers are widely used to compare the cost-effectiveness of each publication or television channel.

Though usually media planners are employed by advertising agencies, since the early 1990s independent media-buying agencies such as Mindshare Fulcrum, Optimum Media Solutions, and Initiative Media, which purchase acres of advertising space and hours of time at heavily discounted prices, have emerged on the advertising and marketing scene. Armed with magazine and newspaper circulation figures and readership profiles, viewership, and tuned into public figures and profiles on television and radio programmes, they draw up optimised media plans for clients with the objective of stretching their advertising budgets. The demand for media planners exceeds supply and from Rs.10,000–12,000 per month as a beginner, you could start earning more than Rs.80,000 monthly within a year or two if you exhibit effort and performance.

BEST MEDIA PROGRAMME. By common consensus the best academic programme in media planning is the two-year full-time residential programme offered by Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), Ahmedabad. A bachelors degree in any discipline is the minimum quali-fication required for admission into MICA. Thereafter, applicants have to write the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted by the IIMs. Toppers indicating their preference for MICA are then obliged to write MICAs own entrance test and participate in a group discussion and interview.

Specialisation in advertising and communications management is offered by the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune, and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai. Moreover one-year diplomas in advertising and communications (including media planning) are offered by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi; Xaviers Institute of Communication, Mumbai; Bhavans College of Communication and Management, Kolkata; and branches of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan among others.

With clients expectations rising continuously and media options multiplying exponentially, the media planners job has become very complex and challenging. Of late, Mindshare Fulcrum has developed many new methodologies available for multimedia analysis which have helped us in fine-tuning and impacting the appropriate target audiences for our clients,” says N. Madhusudhan, former planning director of the Mumbai-based Mindshare Fulcrum, Indias largest media buying agency.

An alumnus of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, Madhusudhan pressed on to acquire a postgraduate diploma in communication with specialisation in media management from MICA and was in the first batch of graduates from this highly-rated, Reliance Industries promoted institute.

Madhusudhan began his career in the media-planning department of the high-profile advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather (O&M). In 2001, the media departments of O&M, Hindustan Thompson Associates, and Contract Advertising were merged to constitute Mindshare Fulcrum.

Indian advertising has come of age. This service industry is growing fast in the post-liberalisation age of intensive competition in the expanding marketplace. To be an effective media planner you need to have good presentation and quantitative skills such as data analysis, a feel for the qualitative, which means understanding consumer habits and attitudes, and creative thinking abilities. Its a rewarding career with plenty of opportunities to grow and travel as advertising has become global with most client companies having gone multinational and multi-cultural. Its certainly an exciting and challenging career for knowledgeable and cerebral individuals,” says Madhusudhan.

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