How to keep the spark alive working in media

A planner's work isn't always glamorous, but Initiative's director of strategy Stephanie Freeman has advice on how to keep up your passion for the job.

Sometimes it’s difficult to stay excited about what we do as media planners.

For me, it’s those times when you tell people you work in advertising, and you have to say, “Oh no, we didn’t make the ad,” to a blank stare. Worse still is when a dreaded non-skippable appears while you’re watching YouTube with friends – cue the collective groan and the internal dismay at how little people enjoy most of what our industry does. It’s easy to get demotivated in the face of back-to-back meetings, same-same briefs and a few blurry weeks of fast deadlines.

So, how do we reignite that passion and excitement that we probably all remember when we started in the industry? Here are a few of my favourite tricks – collected through experience and backed up by colleagues and research.

Seek out cool stuff

Continuous inspiration is vital to creativity. Seeing something cool that someone else did always gives me a spark. It’s the “Damn, I wish I thought of that” moment that gets me excited for the next brief. Fast-changing industries like fashion, tech, design and culture industries like film, music and art always have something new to be inspired by. Check out what’s happening in other markets globally and look to other sectors to see what new ideas could be brought into media.

Got a passion or side hustle? Think how those could apply to media. Years ago, people would have been skeptical that fan fiction could be a space for brands… and then entered Wattpad.

Talk to vendors

Our media partners are doing so much to innovate and push the industry forward. There’s a lot of amazing work that doesn’t make it out to press release, and your partners have all the details.

A new vendor might have that one differentiator that gives you a spark to think differently – whether it’s a new approach to data, formats, storytelling or something else entirely. For your favourite vendors, asking about their best recent work may yield lots of inspiration.

Mix up your media diet

We are all creatures of habit, and that includes media planners. It’s easy to consume the media from the same sources every day. Mixing up your media diet can get you out of a rut, give you a different perspective and just might teach you something new.

I like to think about a few of a client(s)’ target audiences: What types of media do they consume that you don’t? Maybe there’s a newspaper or magazine you can read through, a new radio show or podcast to listen to, or even a new game to play to put you in a different frame of mind.

Mentor someone

What better way to recover some of that spark than to mentor someone starting in the industry? Maybe there’s a project you can volunteer on as a coach or mentor, or a way for a junior to shadow you through a cool project. Mentoring someone else can help us see the media world through fresh eyes and help us remember what we love about it.