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What Comes First – Creative or Media Planning?

An article released today from Media Life focuses on the rise of media planning and buying jobs in the market – with online recruiting website Talent Zoo reporting that "the number of media jobs available is roughly three times greater than it was this time last year, with the heaviest demand for these hard-to-find mid-level planners and buyers."  I do media planning and buying everyday for our clients – but I still consider myself firmly planted in the "creative" world.  I plan media buys based on our creative strategy and choose the right online outlets considering audiences as well as message.

Two years ago, as the Executive Producer at Leo Burnett in Sydney, I remember the ongoing tension from the separation between us creatives and those know-it-all media buyers.  They came in at 10, got taken out to lunch by publishers all the time, and seemed to have all the power with no knowledge, creativity or strategic ability whatsoever.  We secretly wondered whether they offered the company any real value at all.  Of course, this was only one isolated instance and not to be taken as a reflection on media planners as a group … but the rift between media planning and creative was very real, and not a wholly unique phenomenon amongst advertising agencies.

In this month’s issue of Fast Company, David Lubars from BBDO was asked in an interview by Linda Tischler about the growth of media-buying agencies and whether that signaled a shift in power away from creative shops.  His response is telling:

If you’re deciding media buys before creative, you would never have had BMW films or  Creative helps drive where media is going to go.  It can’t be done in an assembly line like a Ford plant from 1908. Sometimes you have a great strategy on paper, but it doesn’t execute. So the creative and the strategy work together like in a DNA molecule. Media has to work like that, too. Media is now a creative job. It’s not just, "How many exposures can I get for this amount of money?" It’s also, "What delightful interesting places can I put my client in that are relevant but fit the creative?" It has to be woven together.

Amen to that.  I just hope a few of those new "mid-level" media buyers out there have the same philosophy. 

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