If you grew up wanting to be say, a doctor, the path forward was very clear. You’d take anatomy in high school, major in biology in college, apply to medical school, and then spend the next decade learning the ins and out of the human body. For most professions, the path from high school to employment is pretty clear. But how does one become a media buyer in the marketing world, but more importantly, succeed as a media buyer?
It’s the question everyone gets asked when heading off to college, “What are you going to study?” What should you major in to become a successful media buyer? Marketing and advertising are the two obvious choices, but think outside the box. Psychology, the scientific study of the mind and behavior, can help bring a different perspective to your work as using consumers behaviors to influence them is what we do all day. Communications, how to successfully get a message across, is an important aspect of our job as well. Mathematics, or at least a general understanding of how numbers work and how to use an Excel spreadsheet to your advantage, is something you should enjoy doing every day.
Get into at least one agency before you graduate. You may decide you love it and it’s where you want to spend the next few decades of your life, or it might not be all you thought it was cracked up to be. You’ll only figure that out once you get in there and get your hands dirty. Working at an agency differs vastly from working in-house for a business. It also helps you understand what “paid media” actually means and why it is so important.
“It’s not always about experience. It’s more about personality, mindset, and your expectations.” Soft skills are hard to come by in this fast-moving, digital world, but oh so important to be a successful media buyer. Can you read a room, negotiate a good deal, be assertive when you need to be but also build a long-lasting relationship with a vendor? Those are the questions you’ll hear in your first interview. Are you a self-starter, detail-oriented, good with numbers, yet have a sense of humor? If you answered yes to a majority of those, that’s a good start.
Walking in the door on your first day, you may think your college degree or past experiences have prepared you for this day and you know all you need to know to be successful. That’s good – be positive, be confident, but also be willing to learn. Every agency is different. Every media is different. Every department director is different. Take your positive attitude, add in some realism, ask questions, and always step up for a new challenge.
Ask all of the questions. “Does this make sense? What were our initial goals? Is this the best media mix? How will this decision affect our final product?” You need to be able to ask the right questions to define your goals and produce key performance indicators, but not get so caught up in the small things that you get lost in the weeds. Step back and see the big picture. How can I use what I have in front of me and also what I’ve learned in the past to produce a product that will benefit my client the most. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure they are happy.
It’s chaotic. It’s fun. It’s stressful. It’s rewarding. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Welcome to the world of media buying.