When Gaurav Puri, an account planner for Webchutney joined MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad) in 2009, 40 students out of his batch of 112 were keen on taking up media planning as a career option after graduating with an MBA.
The number plummeted down to eight students in January this year, when the recruitment process began. Kartikeya Malhotra, management trainee, MSM (Sony Entertainment Network) was one of those eight students.
Reminisces Malhotra, “When I got into MICA, the general buzz was that account planning and media planning are attractive job opportunities. Gradually, I reckoned that media planning was the most powerful tool in hand in order to plan any action for a brand. It was all about getting a good ad delivered to the right audience and that’s where media planning scored.”
But the decline in students willing to take this up for employment at the time of recruitment shows that all is not hunky dory. Meenakshi Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access, says, “When students get enrolled in MICA, they take hefty study loans to pay the fees (around Rs 15 lakh) and so salary becomes critical at that time. And media planning is not a well-paying job for freshers.” Adds Ravi Rao, leader, Team Unilever South Asia, Mindshare, “The starting salary is the biggest factor, followed by mere operations work during the initial years, that keeps youngsters away from media planning jobs.” To this, Prof Atul Tandon, marketing and business consultant, former director, MICA, popularly known as PAT, adds, “It’s not just about the pay, in media planning you don’t get to directly interact with your client unless you are at a senior level and that’s usually a turn-off for youngsters inclined towards this area of work.”
“The way it works in this industry, a client servicing guy stands a better chance at a direct interface with the client than a media planner,” agrees Malhotra.
Puri feels, “I might join it after one or two levels but to start a career with media planning is doing a dirt job. There’s a big disconnect between the course model for media planning and the reality on the ground. While we tend to study with numbers and insights, most of the decisions here are purely made on the basis of gut feelings.”
Adds Rao, “Those who have stuck on and grown into a star media planner have always been exposed to good clients who continue to push the boundaries by asking why or why not. Once this happens, the salaries are definitely not a limiting factor. Some of us have started to visit and teach at business schools, and even go to the extent of a serious partnership with an educational institution in designing media-specific courses to make media planning more appealing.”
Menon notes, “If you look at the statistics, 50 people join media planning and buying every year but only 10% of these stay on. If we can find a way to position the job as a foundation to understand how the business is run, we might be able to increase the traction.”
Professor Atul Tandon (PAT), marketing and business consultant, former director, MICA
“The very first media planners in our industry were MICANs themselves. Even broadcast industry wasn’t that big at that time. Media planning has a great career growth opportunity for someone who is extremely good with numbers, comfortable with data analysis in strategic terms. We gave our students data analytical tools but with media getting extremely fragmented, you can’t simply follow any textbook media planning model. The industry needs young professionals. It cannot keep relying on people from the industry itself to get media planners.”
Gaurav Puri, account planner, Webchutney Studio
“It’s not that there is a lack of interest in media planning as a career option, just that we don’t see any value of that inclination. There’s no ROI, basically. It has a lot of potential as a medium because of the global brands attached to the profile. But the fact that it’s still unorganised in our country, makes the opportunities minuscule and the bandwidth limited. It can be a lot more attractive if it gets organised and more focussed on public. And if media planning works with technology , it will help the industry to a great extent.”
Meenakshi Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access
“The calibre of people in media planning is certainly dipped today. You get people who are barely able to use database. They are over-designated and soon they feel there is no growth in their job. Media jobs are not seen as glamorous anymore. And this desire to get money faster seems to be like a generational thing. If youngsters stick to media planning for some time, they will get paid better remuneration eventually. But even the industry has a part to play in this regard. If the industry is able to sell media planning as an opportunity to learn the business, it might attract more youngsters towards the job. ”
Kartikeya Malhotra, management trainee, Multi Screen Media (Sony Entertainment Network)
“The starting salaries for post graduates from specialist institutes and graduates from other colleges are almost at-par. For someone who is investing lakh of rupees and a couple of years in studies, this might not be a considerable return on investment. Hence, it becomes a deterrent. I reiterate, while the job profile is attractive enough, the returns might not be as appealing when compared with the amount of effort put in.”
Ravi Rao, leader, Team Unilever South Asia, Mindshare
“Top of Mind Awareness is almost on the X-axis among the youth, as the industry at large or most agencies have really not publicised or made it a trendy profile. Startling results however occur when a person who has stumbled upon media planning finds a rich mental fodder and finds the work challenging both personally and professionally. Like any other youth ‘likes’, the word of mouth and referral seems to be the best form of advertising.”