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Behind the Scenes: A Podcast on Media Careers

Behind the Scenes: A Podcast on Media Careers

Welcome to The Zista Podcast, your hub for insightful discussions where we unravel subject-specific mysteries with guidance from top academics and industry leaders. Today, we host Rajeshwari Narayan, General Manager, Talent at Media Brands, a media veteran with over 18 years of rich industry experience.

This episode caters to aspiring media students and delves into the three pillars of media: strategy, planning, and buying, each uniquely dissected by Rajeshwari. 

We also discuss high-demand skills in the media sector, and Rajeshwari shares career advice for future professionals. 

Tune in to The Zista Podcast and take a step closer to your dream media career with this enlightening session, packed with expert insights and industry stories

Welcome to the latest episode of The Zista Podcast, where we delve deep into the world of media with industry experts guiding us. In this enlightening episode, we are privileged to host Rajeshwari Narayan, the General Manager for Talent at Media Brands. With an extensive career in media spanning over 18 years, Rajeshwari’s astute insights come from her experiences working with renowned agencies such as Triton, Starcom Mediavest, and Lodestar UM.

Tailored specifically for media students with a keen interest in charting a path in this dynamic industry, this episode is a comprehensive guide. We initiate our exploration with Rajeshwari providing an in-depth analysis of the three pillars of media – strategy, planning, and buying, elucidating the unique differences, and connections, between each.

As the conversation unfolds, we navigate the landscape of high-demand skills and competencies in media agencies today. With Rajeshwari’s vast reservoir of experience, she shares priceless insights to prepare aspiring media professionals for their upcoming careers. We then dive deep into the heart of the media industry, discussing key advancements, particularly the impact of AI on processes and roles.

This episode, a fusion of expert guidance, insightful narratives, and industry anecdotes, is an absolute must-listen for anyone nurturing aspirations to leave their mark in the media landscape.

Take a stride towards your dream media career by tuning in to The Zista Podcast. Embark on this knowledge-rich journey with us, and gain the tools you need to successfully navigate your path in your career.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Strategy, planning, and buying are interconnected elements in a media campaign. Strategy involves studying the consumer market, competition, and the product in the context of the brand and campaign objectives. Planning comes next, deciding on market priorities and channels based on the target audience. Buying is about negotiating with media partners to get the best deal for the client.
  • Media agencies value a candidate’s attitude, eagerness to learn, inquisitiveness, and willingness to ask questions more than their technical skills, especially at the fresher level.
  • Early career stages require a lot of data crunching to understand categories, media, and mediums at a grassroots level, as strategy recommendations often emerge from these data points.
  • Importance of digital marketing skills: In a rapidly evolving field, digital marketing skills are becoming increasingly important. Earning certifications in digital marketing could be a significant advantage when applying for jobs in media agencies.
  • Continuous learning and upskilling: Reading industry-related books and enhancing communication skills are vital for staying competitive and informed about the latest industry trends.

Q1. What prompted Rajeshwari to build a career in media and planning?

A: Rajeshwari’s interest in a media and planning career was initially sparked during her masters program. As part of her degree, she was required to undertake a summer internship. At this juncture, Rajeshwari’s fascination for advertising led her to approach FCB Ulka, an advertising agency.

Instead of an advertising role, she ended up securing an internship in the media department. In those days, media departments were housed within large advertising agencies, unlike today when we have distinct media agencies and creative or advertising agencies.

This unexpected twist landed Rajeshwari at the heart of the media industry. During her two-month internship, she had a chance to work with Northstar Group. The experiences she garnered here, the people she interacted with, and the insights she gained from her mentors and team, deeply fascinated her and made a lasting impression.

The tasks assigned to her were enlightening and provided her with valuable industry knowledge. It was this unique internship experience, which deviated from her original intent, that crystalized Rajeshwari’s career choice. Captivated by the world of media and planning, she realized this was her true calling and decided to seek a full-time job in a media agency.

Q2. What is the difference between the three elements: strategy, planning, and buying in the context of media? How does one approach a media campaign?

A: Rajeshwari provides a comprehensive breakdown of the three elements—strategy, planning, and buying—in relation to a media campaign, and outlines the process one should follow.

She begins by emphasizing the importance of a media brief. The client provides this document, which articulates their expectations for the campaign. Campaigns can vary widely, from launching a new brand to sustaining an established one, and the approach differs accordingly. The timing, category of product, market competition, and other factors also significantly influence the strategy and planning.

Rajeshwari further elaborates that some campaigns aim to build an image (corporate campaigns) while others might seek a call to action, such as encouraging potential customers to try out a new shampoo variant. The client’s specific requirements direct how the agency will approach the campaign.

The strategy is the first step in the process. It involves considering several aspects such as consumers, competition, the nature of the product, its distribution, and penetration. It involves analyzing past campaigns, the market scenario, competition’s share of voice, and using this data to recommend the best media or multimedia approach to deliver optimal return on investment for the given budget.

This phase of strategic planning involves utilizing various tools, software, and media reports for research and number crunching. Some agencies have proprietary software that allows a more in-depth insight into the audience for a sharper focus.

The planning phase kicks in once the client agrees with the strategy and the recommended media channels. Here, one decides on the market priorities, channels, genres based on the target audience. For instance, if the campaign is for the all-India mass market, one might opt for channels that cater to the Hindi-speaking audience.

Next comes the buying or investment piece. Here, the media agency negotiates with the media partner to get the best deal for the client. They consider various aspects like prime time or non-prime time, audience-centric factors, and maintain the overall cost for the client. The agency and the channel work out what is mutually beneficial.

Finally, the implementation and evaluation phase begins. The agency puts the plan into place and schedules it. Mid-campaign evaluations are common to see how the campaign is faring and if any changes are needed. Once the campaign ends, a post-evaluation report is prepared for the client detailing the set objectives, the achievements, and reasons for any shortcomings, or over-delivery in some cases.

In a nutshell, these steps represent the interconnected elements of strategy, planning, and buying in the media campaign process, as outlined by Rajeshwari.

Q3. What skills and competencies do media agencies look for when hiring?

A: Rajeshwari explains that media agencies have a distinctive approach when seeking new talent, especially through their robust campus programs. She emphasizes that hiring is not merely about acquiring new talent but also about cultivating and maintaining a relationship with the campuses and students over time.

When it comes to hiring freshers who may lack extensive experience in media, there are a few key traits that are valued. The candidate’s attitude and mindset are of primary importance. Rajeshwari believes that the eagerness to learn, inquisitiveness, and a willingness to ask questions are vital attributes they look for in an individual.

Understandably, she doesn’t put too much emphasis on technical skills for freshers, acknowledging that knowledge comes with hand-on experience. She recognizes that students’ theoretical understanding of media and marketing, particularly digital media, might be limited by their coursework. However, some specialized courses do offer a broader understanding of mass media.

Rajeshwari emphasizes looking for individuals with the right attitude, a hunger to learn, and the drive to build a career in media. A sharp focus on making a future in the field is a trait they appreciate. Another essential skill they seek is comfort with numbers and data. Early career stages require a lot of data crunching to understand categories, media, and mediums at a grassroots level, as strategy recommendations often emerge from these data points.

While some agencies have staff specifically for data entry, at the fresher level, Rajeshwari encourages individuals to “get their hands dirty” with the data themselves. She believes this direct interaction with data is a valuable learning opportunity and a crucial step for those aiming to move up in their careers.

Q4. What can aspiring media professionals do to be more prepared for a career in this field?

A: Rajeshwari has several pieces of advice for those who are preparing for a career in media. One significant recommendation she has is enhancing one’s skills in working with spreadsheets, particularly with Excel. She acknowledges that while Excel is typically part of an MBA curriculum, the training might not be advanced enough to handle the vast amounts of data one would encounter in the media industry. Rajeshwari suggests leveraging the multitude of online resources and courses that offer basic to advanced Excel training. Acquiring proficiency in Excel could significantly enhance a candidate’s competence and readiness for a career in media.

Next, she highlights the importance of digital marketing skills in this rapidly evolving field. With an array of online courses available, aspirants can earn certifications in digital marketing from Meta and Google, which could act as an added feather in their cap while applying for jobs in media agencies.

Rajeshwari also recommends reading books authored by industry insiders. These books offer insights into media planning and brand building, which can provide a foundational understanding of the ecosystem within which media agencies operate.

Finally, Rajeshwari underscores the importance of strong communication skills and soft skills. Even though these skills might be picked up during one’s degree, they continue to be essential traits that companies look for. As a media professional, you often serve as an extension of a marketing team, so the ability to communicate effectively is crucial.

Q5. Can you highlight the groundbreaking projects Rajeshwari led that significantly shifted industry dynamics and stood out in her career?”

A: One of the pivotal projects in Rajeshwari’s career, which she believes significantly shifted the dynamics in the industry, was a campaign for Garnier, a brand owned by L’Oreal. Rajeshwari was working with Lodestar at the time, handling L’Oreal as a client. The challenge was to grab the attention of the youth and make the brand resonate with this target audience. 

The strategic approach they took was to engage young people in a way that made them feel part of the entire process. This was done to ensure the audience didn’t feel the brand’s message was imposed on them but rather something they could identify with and love. 

They collaborated with Times Of India to create a unique multimedia campaign for Garnier under the slogan “Take care, take charge.” The campaign centered on paper recycling, where the team collected paper from the youth with a promise to recycle it. The goal was to create the first-ever “Green Times of India” for Earth Day on June 4th. 

The campaign began in April, on World Environment Day, and ran until Earth Day. For every idea submitted by the youth on sustainability and environmental friendliness, the team committed to collect and recycle 10 kgs of paper. The campaign garnered over four to five thousand ideas from the youth and was successful in creating an impressive market share.

They even managed to involve the Environment Minister at the time, Jairam Ramesh, in some of the forums where they engaged with the youth. It was indeed a challenging task, beginning with ideation in January, and required significant investment and commitment from the client.

The campaign was a collaborative partnership with Times Group, leveraging their multimedia reach across online, print, radio, and television. This innovative, transformational campaign not only generated a significant market response but also bagged numerous awards. It even won a Gold Medal at Cannes Lions in 2011, marking a pivotal point in the Indian media industry and was lauded for its approach and execution.