Woe The Digital Sale: No Fun At All

Question from a buyer:  I'm a 24-year-old digital media planner.  Why does everyone make fun of me?

Amy says: In my family, we had a saying:  "You only mock the ones you love."  So don't necessarily take the teasing as a bad thing.  But let me consider some of what may be going on. Until you reach the quarter century mark, it's difficult to have real credibility in the business marketplace. (Unless you are an ivy-league student who invents an Internet juggernaut.)  No matter how educated you are, I'm not sure anyone is truly prepared for the daily activities in our digital advertising business.  Experience is key and at your age, you don't have much.  As you are interacting with sellers who may be up to 20 or more years your senior, there is probably a lot that they find charming about you, or you remind them of their own youth.  And if they have been selling any length of time, they have met a ton of planners and they will get tickled about seeing you starting your own journey.  I would advise you to join the fun.  Our business is very social and being able to laugh at yourself is a great asset. 



But if everyone is making fun of you, then maybe they are trying to drop some hints to help you out.  The other family saying was "There is truth in every jest."  At this point in my career, I know what my strengths are and I know what I do that drives my colleagues crazy.  Maybe folks around you and/or sellers are just giving you a little dig or two to try to show you in a subtle way what kind of comments or behaviors are inappropriate in the workplace or aren't doing any favors for you in building a positive reputation.  The advertising business is a roller coaster.  Any feedback you can take in will make your ride much smoother and more fun.

The last option I think is that you are hanging around with a bunch of haters.  If that is the case, then it is a real issue and you should discuss it with your direct line manager or human resources. In the movie "Malibu's Most Wanted" there is a saying: "Don't be hatin'."   Everyone brings their baggage to work, and sometimes co-workers, clients, and partners get caught in other's emotional crossfire.  Sharing your experiences with someone you work with can give you another perspective and confirm whether or not something formal needs to be done.  And although it sounds scary, in my experience it's best to bring human resources in earlier rather than later.  I always tell my team that I expect everyone -- especially sellers -- to treat them the way I would be treated as a director.  If this doesn't happen, I want to know and I will address the issue. Mutual respect is key to getting things done right at work.

But maybe the armchair Dr. Phil answers are off-base when it comes to sellers and how they interact with us planners. 

Jason, what are you guys really thinking?

Jason says: As someone who just celebrated the glorious milestone of 40, let me say that we laugh because we hate you. We hate you because you don't have to consider how busy you are at work against how much time you will have to lose if you throw your back out or tear your Achilles before deciding to play a pick-up game of basketball. You can just go.

Notwithstanding, I understand the nature of your question. I often read articles and attend many conferences where people refer to the decisions-makers in our business as the nameless, faceless, euphemistic, "24-year-old media planner." Usually not meant flatteringly. It is used to express frustration with having your fate determined by someone who may not be worthy of choosing when and where advertising dollars are allocated.

There can be many reasons to make fun of you young'uns, but here's just a sample:

·       You work like dogs and you make little money.

·       You often stare off into space during our presentations. (We refuse to believe our presentations are boring.)

·       You make media decisions based on how good your free Yankees seats were.

·       Once a month, you email the entire media plan to your external contact list. (We actually appreciate this one, because how else would we ever know how much our competition charges?)

On the sales side of the equation, we, too, have 24-year-olds working very hard -- but we don't ask them to decide where millions of dollars should be spent. They work hard because they want to get a chance to sell advertising to other 24-year-olds and make bonuses for their success.

Let me end with my appreciation for all the agency-side people, those wet behind the ears as well as those who have annually scheduled colonoscopies. We like you. We need you. We appreciate the work you do. Most of the time, your jobs are thankless and never-ending, but without you our business would not be the success it is.

I firmly believe we've only scratched the surface of revenue that will ultimately flow to the digital medium. Your contributions will only become more important. Some feel machines will decide the flow of ad money, but without thoughtful humans evaluating the possibilities, we have no hope. You are that hope. In other words, I believe the children are our future. Thank you, and let me know how many Yankee playoff tickets you need, punk.

3 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: No Fun At All".
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  1. Ann Balboa from Orange22, August 11, 2011 at 1:48 p.m.

    Oh we all love to poke fun at the twenty somethings in charge of millions, but the reality is, they need training on how to deal with sales and understand the trade off in a free lunch. And sales needs training to further understand why these busy young planners act the way they do.

    There's a section in a free ebook that Neil Monnens and myself wrote that talks about the day in the life of media buyer, planner and director. Check it out here, it's on page 88 to 94. Click the ebook link at

  2. David Diekmann from Bloomstruck, August 12, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.

    My manager at the first pure online ad sales gig I had told me that 'media planners are paid to work with you, and you're paid to work with them. Sometimes, the power goes to their head and they forget their part of the arrangement. That doesn't mean you forget yours.' Young planners, for the first time since their freshman year in college, find themselves in charge of more than just their sack lunch and car keys. That they're in charge of a large amount of money and how it's spent, while making very little income themselves, lends to being influenced by sweet seats at the ball game. This is frustrating for good sellers who're trying to represent their media property/ties fairly ~ and who may not have the budget to buy-off the planners, so to speak. The sad truth is that tickets don't influence the audience's response to their clients' messaging...if the site/network they buy doesn't perform, they've actually put their jobs at risk! Short term gain may result in long term pain!

    I've always tried to teach them while selling to them, helping them understand how technology is evolving and they can leverage it on behalf of their clients. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they've already made up their minds to buy the 'other network' whose rep offered them those tickets...

  3. Nicole Lyons from Local Yokel Media, August 18, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.

    How about this, 24-year old planner: you're like a Freshman in the workforce. Which is not to say that you aren't one of the cooler freshman who can hang with the juniors and seniors, or one of the smarter freshman who qualifies for AP courses, but you are still at the beginning of your career and/or on the lower rungs of the ladder in an industry that is notorious for hazing.

    Add to that the fact that 'digital' is such a dynamic area of focus, and that your relative youth has given you the advantage of early adoption of and/or longer-term use of new technologies and platforms, and I'd say you've got a good old-fashioned case of jealousy on your hands when someone makes fun of you.

    My advice would be to take it in stride as best you can: the reality is that you are in the early stages of a career in digital that promises to be quite a ride, which is more than most can say about their jobs. By the way, I'm a Junior, and I don't have ballgame tickets but I'll let you sit at my table in the lunchroom if you want to talk hyperlocal display :-)

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