Minding your business
While the creatives in the advertising agencies are often lauded for their imagination and originality, few are acquainted with the people who make the advertisements seen. Rahul Thappa of Mindshare Malaysia gave doctorjob a glimpse into the media planning and buying aspect of this fast-paced industry.
Rahul Thappa’s love for numbers and belief that rewards are the result of accumulated efforts explains his passage to his current position today. After eleven years, he still enjoys managing for consumers and clients, and looking for fresh ideas. He speaks enthusiastically about the industry and what it takes to work in the field.
What is media planning and buying?
‘Media planning is the process of determining the right message, for the right person, at the right time and at the right price,’ Thappa explained. ‘Traditionally, it was all about choosing where the client’s advertising budget goes, negotiating with media owners and buying the media inventory. Our role was to reduce the cost of advertising by buying in bulk.’ Nowadays established agencies also employ the services of research and media monitoring companies to identify the media habits of consumers.
On the job
A typical day for a media planner or buyer involves a lot of communication. ‘You will receive different briefs, decode them and give instructions to the next person,’ said Thappa. ‘Depending on your role, you will be dealing with clients, other team members or media owners.’
‘On an average day, your work will last until 7pm. Slow days end at 6pm but you’ll usually find yourself catching up with basic housekeeping. You won’t have to burn the midnight oil unless you are behind time, or if there is a new business pitch, or if the client has an emergency or wants a new campaign and presentation in the next two days.’
Dressing the part
Relevance and appropriateness are key. Smart casual is the minimum in most cases; do dress in smart formal attire when going for pitches.
Skills and credentials
‘You don’t need a specific degree or background but you will definitely have an advantage if you do,’ Thappa said. ‘You get to meet more people, and develop ideas and know more about business. However, every planner and buyer must come equipped with an open mind, strong arithmetic skills and meticulousness. Maturity, common sense, observance and the ability to articulate your ideas verbally and in written form are helpful.’
Fresh graduates start out as executives. ‘Once you have mastered the basic buying and planning principles, you can specialise and then manage a team. This of course depends on your client’s business progress and your ability to identify opportunities.’
Big names in the Malaysian media scene include Mindshare, Carat, Zenith, StarCom and OMD. Apart from media agencies and full service advertising agencies, media planners and buyers can work for media owners, in research or content development, and as client marketing managers.
The starting salary for an executive is about RM2,000 a month. With seven to eight years of experience, you can earn up about RM8,000-RM10,000. Senior managers usually get RM15,000 or more. After that, how much you earn will depend on your own efforts. One small drawback is that you’ll need at least five to six years before your experience starts to match your salary.
You may specialise in a type of product, a specific medium such as television, radio print or electronic media, a client such as Nestlé or Unilever, or even work in content development and consumer research.
Growth and future trends
Since breaking out from full ad agencies ten years ago, media agencies have added consumer insights, content development and new media strategies to their repertoire. ‘This allows us to not only understand what consumers want but also how they perceive the world, and bring relevance back to advertising,’ he said. ‘Instead of creating the image of the perfect consumer based on the price and design of the product and creating ads to target this imaginary individual, now we design products and ads based on real consumers.’
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for media planners to take on the role of marketers, advertising account executives or creatives. Add in a full-fledged production department and what you have is actually a full advertising agency. ‘You will definitely see the comeback of full agencies in the near future. By then, clients will have the option of choosing between letting the media experts or the creatives control the direction of the communication.’
Words of advice
According to Thappa, the right attitude is crucial. ‘Keep your ears open, learn continuously and have perseverance. If you are more than 50% sure of something, keep working hard at it and there is a good chance that you will not fail.
‘Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions or ask questions, but do so intelligently. Understand the value of what you have in life and use it responsibly.’
This article first appeared in doctorjob's CoursesNOW! Art, design and mass communication 2010.