‘Seemingly nonstop’: Constant requests to replan and retool campaigns is getting to media buyers

September 2, 2020

Read the featured article here, on the Digiday website.
Written by Kristina Monllos

When it comes to work/life balance, media buyers are feeling acute burnout effects of the on-going uncertainty and workplace pressure caused the coronavirus pandemic.

For many, the last few months have not only been fraught with unpredictability but with constant replanning for clients as advertisers are less likely to commit to running earlier agreed upon campaigns as is. As decisions are now more likely to come at the last minute and advertisers want buyers to tweak plans much more frequently, it means longer hours and a drain on buyers who say the new expectations are having a negative effect on their mental health.

“There’s been constant replanning, a constant shuffling of budget,” said a media buyer who requested anonymity. “It seems like a lot of clients are possibly in some kind of internal fight to get budgets signed off. They cannot commit to a plan. It’s like, ‘Do a plan and I’ll tell you right at the last minute if we can go ahead.’ I’ve never worked on so many replans in my career.”

Buyers say they are used to last minute adjustments from clients, but that this year is different.

“It definitely seems like we’re having to do things more on the fly these days,” said Keith Martin, co-founder and director of digital strategy at digital agency Lunar Solar Group. “We’ve certainly had to adjust and readjust plans seemingly nonstop here over the last few months.”

Overall, the continued uncertainty has advertisers scared to make firm commitments to campaigns which means that buyers are spending more time figuring out alternative plans or talking to clients about where the budget should go. That’s trickled down to planning for holiday or Q4 advertising which has been more difficult due to “abnormal consumer behavior” this year as well as inventory issues which has had an “impact on forecasting budgets and cash flow as it relates to marketing goals,” said Kevin Simonson, vp of social at Wpromote.

Retooling advertising budgets and plans can make it impossible to unplug and unwind. Buyers say the pressure to not only replan but maintain performance during this moment can be difficult to manage. For some buyers, the job has become more difficult not only due to the continued uncertainty and constant replanning but unrealistic expectations from clients.

“Now I get Slack messages [from clients] 24/7, literally 1 a.m. on Sunday people are messaging me,” a media buyer for DTC brands recently told Digiday. “The work/life balance has completely gone out the window for me — and for others I know too — due to this pressure to perform. People freak out if there’s a single bad day whereas in the past there was a little more leniency.”

Others say that the pressure is inherent in the job and that it’s easy for buyers to fixate on finding ways to perfect a campaign’s performance, especially now that most are working from home. “It can be very easy to sit there all day, stress out, constantly refresh, tinker and think about it when you’re going to bed,” said Martin.

Some agencies have started to tell employees they need to set boundaries while working at home and take time away from the computer. For example, Dallas-based independent media agency Arm Candy has mandated that employees take 15 days of vacation this year and to limit responding to email or after hours messages to maintain some work/life balance, according to Arm Candy COO Lauren Miller.

“We’re asking employees to take a Summer Friday or incentivizing people to take vacation days so that they’re able to come back focused and to do better work,” said Miller.

Even so, buyers say the push to constantly replan as well as to generate “good results” for clients even with economic uncertainty has been draining.

“The stakes across the board were so much higher,” said one former buyer who has since gone client-side due to the stress.