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What's it like to be young, gifted and a TV planner?

Rising stars of TV planning - the 2020 Thinkbox Young TV Planner of the Year finalists - tell it like it is

What's it like to be young, gifted and a TV planner?

If you're a talented, young TV planner, there's a new-ish award open to you - the Thinkbox Young TV Planner of the Year 2021. It's part of the Thinkbox TV Planning Awards, run in partnership with CampaignGet your entry in now!

But what's it like being you? Particularly now? We asked the six who were shortlisted in 2020 to tell us how this last year has been for them - and what they are looking forward to in 2021.

Charlotte Knope, associate director, (broadcast), Running Total and 2020 Thinkbox TV Young Planner of the Year

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown? 
With most platforms exhausted, Lockdown 3 forced me to finally bargain with my Dad for inclusion in his Sky subscription. (My Netflix account stretches as far as my Nan, so surely this was only fair?!) In the two weeks that followed, I was immersed in the world of HBO’s Succession, a series I cannot recommend highly enough. 

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
Unsurprisingly, we’ve held countless quizzes, enjoyed many virtual Friday beers, and occasionally got acquainted with one another’s flat mates / partners / pets – often by accident! Yet it was having a Christmas Care Package delivered by managing partners in person (from a safe distance!), to my front door that I’ll remember for a long time.

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? 
We currently live in a world where the government’s management of the pandemic can drastically affect a client’s business overnight – flexibility for advertisers in market has been essential. 2020 became a year of relaxed late booking charges and wavered cancellation penalties. TV, a channel with notoriously long lead times, could suddenly be switched on and off within a matter of days. Such a gear change started to de-risk TV for advertisers and it was suddenly easier for agencies to sell TV as a core component to tactical "lockdown sensitive" media solutions.

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
The ever-changing shape of COVID-19 restrictions ask society to take life week by week. Asking clients to plan with the future in mind is going to become increasingly difficult.

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
It's that I do actually enjoy it! The pandemic has temporarily taken away all the social luxuries that come with this job. My work remains both engaging and rewarding despite the fact that I’m sat alone at my kitchen table. That has got to count for something.

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021?
The relentless sophistication of BVOD targeting definitely keeps things interesting. Two years ago, BVOD audiences varied little beyond BARB segmentation, yet today I have live campaigns that target TV viewers based on how many cars are on their driveway. 

Aimee Sheehan, media director, AV, Wavemaker

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown?
I’ve watched a lot of TV the last few months...Gogglebox, RuPaul, Bridgerton, Married at First Sight, Prodigal Son, Selling Sunset.

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
“Meeting Free” afternoons and days within the month;  25/55min standard meetings to give us time back in the hour; sending of office equipment and wellness hours.

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? 
Diversity & Inclusion – ensuring we are reaching all/more audiences through our channels and platforms - a standard, one size fits all approach needs to evolve.

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
Understanding change in media consumption. Are these shifts temporary while we’re in a COVID-19 world or are they indicative of future trends.

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
Resilience!

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021?
Evolving data-matching capabilities across the broadcasters, allowing for advertisers to be much more targeted in their video approaches.

Jamie Callaghan, business director, OMD UK

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown? 
A Perfect Planet on BBC. David Attenborough and the team struck a brilliant balance of entertainment and severity with this latest series.

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
OMD has implemented rules around out of hours emails, set parts of the day where calls are discouraged, giving us time for "deep" work, and ensuring all staff have access to mental health and well-being resources.

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? 
It’s been super interesting figuring out the best way to test the impact of stricter HFSS regulations across TV and online.

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
How quickly the goalposts move.

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
I’m lucky to work for a company that cares about my welfare (and that our society probably doesn’t give enough back to the people who prop it up).

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021?
(ITV platform) Planet V, (Channel 4's) Brandm4tch, and Sky Analytics.

Gabriella Michalski, investment director, AV, Manning Gottlieb OMD

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown? 
Stand out TV for me most recently has been going back and watching old sitcoms for some light comedy relief and escapism…oh and Bridgerton

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
On a basic human level, Manning Gottlieb has just been great at understanding how everyone’s individual experiences of lockdown are totally different. MG has been really empathetic to all circumstances while bringing the MG culture into a virtual space. MG Radio has been a particular hit on Friday afternoons.  

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? 
Pretty much everything. The pandemic has been a really tough experience for everyone but it has also been an opportunity for us to reappraise how we go about the day to day – how we work, how we plan media, how we collaborate with partners. I really think the biggest opportunity is getting back out there fast, being progressive, being agile and embracing these new rules.

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
The “big unknown” and the impact on confidence is without doubt the biggest challenge. Where is the market moving? What are viewing patterns going to be? All the evidence supports the value of TV as the most effective channel (and generally first on my clients' media plans!) but up against tough financial headwinds, we also need to be talking about the resilience and reliability of TV so that clients can commit to our plans with confidence. 

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
We are better at our jobs when we’re having fun! That might seem ambitious given our current predicament but we’re incredibly lucky to work in a vibrant, creative and fun industry and we need to cherish that. We may need to “fake it till we make it” for a few more months yet but I can’t wait to be back in a real office with real people!

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021?
Lockdown has massively boosted the volume of logged-in users to a whole array of content platforms. And with those users watching unprecedented (sorry!) volumes of content, we’ve accelerated to a whole new depth of understanding of TV viewers. 

George Viner, associate director, MediaCom UK

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown? 
I’ve been watching a lot of dramas during lockdown, including all the previous series of ITV’s Unforgotten. Very much looking forward to the upcoming series!

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
To help employees adapt, there has been a big focus on well-being and mental health at MediaCom, with initiatives such as Mental Health Allies (a confidential and trusted listening service available to all MediaCommers) and MediaCom Unplugged (where no meetings are allowed to take place during this time).

Within our own teams, there have of course been the obligatory, lockdown quizzes which have been keeping everyone entertained!

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? 
Addressable TV. With all the major broadcasters developing their offering in this area, I think we’ll see many advertisers testing in this space. Sophisticated targeting means brands can target their audiences efficiently and cost effectively – opening up TV to more brands. 

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
We all want a cross-media measurement solution so that advertisers can be safe in the knowledge that their plans maximise value and growth. This has become more important during lockdown, as every penny counts for advertisers. Solutions like ISBA's Project Origin will go some way to address this issue.

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
It is that placing importance on the mental health of my team and myself is critical to job performance.

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021?
I am most excited about dynamic video creative in the addressable TV space. By “dynamic video”, I mean where the actual frames and script change based on a viewer’s consumption circumstances so that the right creative can be delivered to the right individual at the right time.

This can be done within programmatic video, but we will see this within addressable TV/VOD in 2021. Advertisers will see greater efficiencies on TV and equally excitingly, TV will be able to integrate further with other media channels where dynamic creative is already established (e.g. audio, display).

Ian Daly, head of AV, Bountiful Cow (was broadcast video director at the7stars when shortlisted)

Stand-out TV show you watched/discovered in lockdown? 
Gomorrah

What has your agency done to help you adapt to the "new normal"/WFH lifestyle? 
They have been brilliant. There are too many initiatives to name but suffice to say that physical and mental wellbeing has continued to be a priority during lockdown(s).

Biggest planning opportunity of 2020/21? The whole planning cycle has been reduced from months to weeks, even days. Advertisers and agencies with their fingers on the pulse could be rewarded for quick thinking.

Biggest planning challenge of 2020/21? 
Second guessing the UK government.

If 2020 has taught me one thing about my job…
It’s to not stress about things you can’t control.

What TV developments are you excited about in 2021? 
There’s plenty to be excited about… TVs are getting bigger, better and smarter, and while they continue to dominate our attention, there will be an abundance of planning opportunities.

See here for more information and to enter the Thinkbox Young TV Planner of the Year 2021, held in partnership with Campaign.

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