What’s a Digital Media Planner Anyway?

This used to be the only way to get your message across.

Digital media planning takes a lot of data and a bit of detective work

How did that ad get there? And how come I noticed it?

Sponsored posts clutter Facebook and ads run before seemingly every YouTube video. Making sure that the right people pay attention is what being a digital media planner is all about.

We spoke to David Lau, a VP at the marketing agency iCrossing, where he heads paid search and programmatic media, to find out what being a digital media planner is all about.

Can you describe a typical day?
A typical day includes elements of reporting, optimization, communication, and thinking. However, I don’t think there’s anything typical. While there’s routine work that keeps track of the health of the campaigns – reporting on results, pacing budgets, etc…, there’s always a “What happened?” moment. Why did site traffic decrease? What led to the massive increase in sales yesterday?

The fun part of the day is doing the detective work to answer those questions.

How did you get this job?
I fell into paid search when I was having difficulty landing a job in investment banking. It’s the best accident of my life and happened when I was referred by a classmate from university. I double majored in finance and marketing, and digital media is the perfect fit – there’s accountability in data and numbers and the challenge of interpreting and telling a story from that.

How has the role of digital media planner changed over the past few years?
The role and responsibilities have evolved from single channel expertise to broader. Earlier in the decade, job functions and identities were segmented – this is your display team, here’s the paid search team, and so forth. Today, the environment has blended so much of how we buy, optimize, and plan that simply being the best at one channel is not a competitive advantage anymore.

Buying ads on Facebook became a legitimate skill set in 2010, but there were tremendous bumps in the road and their products didn’t feel consistent until 2014. Plenty of time for anyone to become an expert.

The role will continue to evolve as the market leaders in advertising change their product or get replaced by another company.

Any misconceptions about what your job is that you’d like to clear up?
While programmatic media provides transparency and real-time data and results, it’s not as fast as some people think…or should be. I’ve had multiple situations where a client would request we make a change to a program based on 3-6 hours of data that I felt was a kneejerk reaction.

The truth is, data is lagged. It’s not truly “real time” and there’s also the amount of time for a consumer to convert to account for. If we have three hours of media data (cost, impressions, clicks), but the conversation data is lagged one hour behind and a customer takes about 20 minutes to make their order… I don’t think we should be optimizing on an hourly basis.

Help us talk the talk. What lingo should a potential digital media planner know?

Viewability: was the ad seen by a person? Not just shown on the screen.

Omni channel: being present to the consumer as much as possible with an integrated experience. All channels should seem like a variation of another, and there’s no difference for the consumer. In essence, a seamless experience.

Transparency: getting insights and the raw data within a program. As technology advances and media purchases become more complex, advertisers want to see what they’re really buying. For every $1 that they put in, how much are they getting? Not just “media value” but where does that $1 go?