Evolution Of The Agency Buyer-Planner

“the executioner” opinion expressed below is written by Natalie DiBerto, Lead, Account Services, Ad Exchanges, at Razorfish.

Evolution Of The Agency Buyer-PlannerNew demand-side platforms now make it possible to execute buying strategies and purchase directly across wide swaths of inventory, cutting out the middle-man aggregators. Agencies have to think about how this new technology impacts and changes their media buying and planning vertical. Do the media buyers/planners need to close the gap and become the new middle men? Some agencies are building out their own strategies to compete with ad networks by using ad exchanges. How does this impact the role of media planners/buyers, and how are they adapting to this change? Change isn’t easy, and things can get sticky when you start to talk about peoples’ jobs.

Traditionally, interactive media planners have been responsible for the strategy around creating efficient plans, negotiating buys and ensuring delivery (to put it simply). The role didn’t require the use of bid management tools, highly complex optimization (with even more levers than search) or the possible execution of media buys through a demand-based buying platform. So, basically this means planners need to “do more” to get the return they would expect from networks. How do you incentivize folks to say goodbye to sushi dinners and hello to self-service?

The search skill set is more aligned with the tools necessary to execute exchange buys on demand-based platforms. SEM managers take care of the whole shebang: they plan, buy, execute, and report on data that requires aggregation from front end and back end data sources. A seasoned SEM manager gets it when it comes to needing fluid and flexible budgets in an auction environment. In the future, particularly in the realm of direct response, media planners will need to rely less on strong communication and negotiation skills, and more heavily on data and analytics skills. There is a reason why planners don’t typically run search campaigns, and that’s usually because the release of Office 2007 with a million functional rows didn’t increase their heart rate (in a good way).

In general, it is a difficult task to change the way people think about buying media and in some cases, convince people that there needs to be a change in the way they think. Now that the nature of media buying is changing due to new technology, agencies need to adapt to the landscape and find ways to adopt and accommodate change. Transition isn’t easy. Some people will embrace it, some won’t know how.

Should media planners and buyers be expected to work toward a proficient understanding of demand-based platforms and have a background in analytics, or should agencies employ a specific group that specializes in exchanges and train them from scratch? The real question is, how will they deal with these questions and what will it take to evoke change?

Follow Razorfish (@Razorfish) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. I think this piece makes some valid points about necessary skillsets, but it also makes some assumptions. I realize the author approaches this market from the standpoint of working at a large digital agency with a plethora of specialized functions within, but I wouldn’t assume that every agency operates this way. I think there are a quite a few people out there who might buy display media, but also have enough exposure to things like search and analytics to be able to deal with the demands of exchange-based buying.

    There’s also an assumption that exchange-based buying will continue to be as complex as it currently is. We know from observing digital channels (that were once new) that tools, workflows and processes rarely stay stagnant, and that the skillsets required to purchase, say, display media in 1999 are much different than they now are in 2009. Expect a lot of innovation in this sector, brought about not only by some of the established players in the exchange business, but by companies few of us have yet heard of.

  2. I like this article as it touches on the “change” that’s starting to happen in the industry but I disagree that communication is going to play less of a role. Communication is the essence of any relationship and this is something that most agencies do extremely well. Communication still has to exist between agencies and their clients as well, as agencies and their partners/vendors and we place a special emphasis on people who know how to communicate well.

    Analytics and quantitative analysis is extremely important and is becoming a larger part of the DNA moving forward, but quants still have to communicate as clients still speak the same language they always have.

    • Natalie DiBerto

      It’s a fair point that communication is always going to be an integral part of media buyers/planners’ roles. However, for direct response programs in particular, the content and context of communication needs to change to be more quantitative and strategic.

      You’re right, client-facing individuals in this space will need to continue to be good communicators. Unfortunately, communication alone won’t enable people to execute and optimize these types of programs. Agency buyers/planners will need to develop or rely more heavily on analytical skills within a self service model in order to stay competitive.

  3. Joe Jenkins

    I think the solution starts with the AMP/AMB. There needs to be an infusion of young talent who bring new ideas/insights and a willingness to train them up with real world lessons by experienced MP/MB.