What does it take to be a TV planning star?

They've changed a bit, but what have they learned? Four TV planners give their younger selves a talking to and cast their eyes forward to new developments on the TV horizon

At the start of their TV planning careers: Sharon Barnes, Jonathan Wilkins, Rhiannon Murphy and Mihir Haria-Shah
At the start of their TV planning careers: Sharon Barnes, Jonathan Wilkins, Rhiannon Murphy and Mihir Haria-Shah

There's a new prize in the Thinbox TV Planning Awards 2020 - Young TV Planner of the Year. 

The prize is open to media agency planners, 30 years old or under, who can demonstrate a proven track record of making an impact for their agency and clients through exceptional media planning with TV at its heart.

To mark the new award, we asked four established TV planners what they would say to their younger TV planner selves (pictured as they were then) - and what they think are the most exciting things in TV's future.

What advice would you give your young TV planner self?

Sharon Barnes, head of AV delivery, PHD

The best advice I could give my younger self would be immerse yourself in all things AV and put yourself in a position to take advantage of the continual evolution of what ‘TV’ means.

Throughout my years as a TV planner and buyer I have been told that TV advertising is dying or dead.
The introduction of the video recorder, ad-skipping, on demand TV and streaming services were all predicted to spell the end for TV.

But TV has moved on from being linear content that’s delivered from a box in the corner of your living room and it remains the largest video medium, providing mass reach in a brand safe environment for advertisers.
Set top box developments from Sky and Virgin Media, alongside the growing penetration of Smart TVs, have meant that addressable TV opportunities now reach the majority of UK households. 

Meanwhile, shifting consumer behaviours have led to greater consumption of non-linear content, which means that consumption of addressable-enabled advertising is also reaching mass-market scale. 

Jonathan Wilkins, deputy head of investment, MediaCom

Ask questions and don’t ever be concerned about pressing more experienced people to pass their wisdom on. There is no textbook to perfect the art and a lot is passed down through experience in AV departments.

Master the basics of linear AV planning as the cornerstone of your knowledge. This takes time and will inform your video on demand (VOD) planning and, in turn, holistic AV strategy. You can’t plan if you don’t understand how to buy.

Also, be informed of industry developments as we are going through a revolution of viewing consumption with an ever-growing consumer appetite for on demand. But remember the importance of linear: TV isn’t dead!

Most importantly, mistakes happen; learn from them but don’t repeat them. And always remember to have a healthy level of cynicism when presented with new products. These need to be interrogated with the same rigour you would a linear TV plan.

Rhiannon Murphy, head of TV, the7stars

Media is fast paced, exciting and lots of fun.

Immerse yourself in it.

Never stop learning.

Be passionate.

Always challenge yourself.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Mihir Haria-Shah, head of broadcast, Total Media

When I started out as a TV planner/buyer, I found the maths and jargon associated with it to be quite overwhelming.

Learning how to buy TV was hugely important to understanding the mechanics, but I wish I had spent more time with the trading teams to get a more advanced understanding at an earlier stage of my career.

However, the TV world is complex. There’s no denying that and it can take about six months to piece together how everything you're learning combines to make a TV campaign. So don't panic if you're not a TV expert within a month!

There will be constant battles for share of client spends and the TV sector is no different. As my experience has grown, however, I have found that some of the most effective campaigns I have been a part of are the ones in which we have worked as closely as possible with other activation teams and shared budgets as opposed to arguing over them.

Understanding how other media works and how they can function alongside TV will not only enhance your media knowledge but also make you a better TV planner.

As technology transforms TV advertising, what are you most excited to see on the horizon?

Sharon Barnes, head of AV delivery, PHD

Advertisers are already able to augment viewing data with sales data to plan and report beyond demographic audiences to relevant customer audiences. The next stage is to progress to an outcomes-based planning and trading model.

This would be transformative for television advertising and mean that TV is no longer hamstrung by being judged solely on audience ratings. Instead, the value and placement of TV advertising will be determined by its effect on a client business. TV remains the best medium for building mass reach but evolving this approach will enable it to further demonstrate its value as an effective and efficient marketing vehicle in a modern media world.

Content remains key as the sales-houses continue to invest vast sums of money in programming.

I love living in a world where I am waiting anxiously for the release date of the third series of Succession, watching Love Island on my commute (guilty), settling down with the kids on a Saturday evening to watch Masked Singer (bizarrely addictive), seeing who gets kicked out of Bake Off and nervously discussing England’s chances in the Euros......

Jonathan Wilkins, deputy head of investment, MediaCom

The AV landscape has dramatically transformed in recent years and the rate of change is only going to accelerate.

I’m most excited about the development of an industry standardised measurement system of cross-platform and sales-house viewing. The on-going development of Project Dovetail and C-Flight are responding to the need for a true AV reach tool. This will bring together the worlds of linear TV and digital on demand viewing.

The need for this technology will only grow with the increased penetration of addressable AV and will pave the way for a single entry-point for buying. Sales-houses will be able to trade their inventory on a single cost-per-thousand (CPT/CPM) based on the platform that the audience is viewing.

Rhiannon Murphy, head of TV, the7stars

Technology has enriched the viewing experience by making it personalised and interactive.
The viewer is now the curator.

The addressable TV marketplace will continue to evolve, allowing for innovation and hyper-targeting.

However, for me, the most exciting thing has to be the content. TV programming, no matter what platform it’s viewed on. TV has the unrivalled power to evoke a multitude of emotions, to still deliver those "water cooler" moments, to be a trusted environment for brands and, most importantly, deliver business results.

Mihir Haria-Shah, head of broadcast, Total Media

While there are still some areas to be addressed (such as measurement and terminology), the convergence of TV and digital and the opportunities it presents to advertisers are extremely exciting.

TV’s strongest asset will always be brand building, however. The ability to take advantage of the scale and reach of TV, coupled with data-led, targeted TV planning puts TV in an even stronger position. 

The combination of the forecast increased penetration of connected TV and the continuing advances in the addressable TV space - Sky rolling out AdSmart to Channel 4, ITV launching Planet V and Finecast becoming an increasingly important player - there are huge opportunities for advertisers to reach TV audiences based on behaviours, not just demographics.

The talk in 2019 has all been about the popularity of subscription VOD (SVOD) services and the impact they may have on traditional TV going forward. While they aren’t going to go away anytime soon, as we approach saturation point for subscriptions, ad-based VOD (AVOD) services will become part of a consumer’s TV mix which presents some more exciting opportunities to advertisers.

In May, shortlisted candidates for the Young TV Planner of the Year award will be invited to the Thinkbox TV Planning Awards judging day, where they will get the chance to meet and present in front of a prominent panel of senior clients and agency leaders.

The awards celebrate creative and effective uses of TV and recognise the people behind them. Held in conjunction with Campaign, they are free to enter and the closing date for entries is Friday 13 March. 

Full details on the awards and how to enter can be found at