What Does an Advertising Media Director Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of an advertising media director: Pitch to potential clients, meet with media salespeople, plan for future media buys, manage media team

The Balance / Tim Liedtke

You may have heard of a "media director" in the world of advertising, but have questions about the role, and the responsibilities assigned to it. When you see (or hear) an advertisement on TV, radio, a billboard, the Internet, in your mailbox, in newspapers and magazines, on your cell phone, or at the movies, an advertising media director will have played a major part in getting it there. It's their responsibility to head up the media department and make crucial decisions regarding the timing and placement of those advertisements.

As with most jobs in advertising, a typical day does not really exist. In particular, the media director has to be ready to react to current events and changing markets at a moment’s notice. For example, in the event of a tragedy or a piece of controversial news, a media director has to be ready to step in quickly and ensure that media buys are pulled from certain outlets to avoid embarrassment (or worse) for both the agency and the client.

 A media director should expect to travel far and wide to meet with various vendors around the country (and possibly the world, for International campaigns). A media director can also expect to be courted by vendors, clients, and other outside agencies, resulting in a lot of free meals, tickets to shows, and days out at sporting events. This is the nature of the business and is how a lot of business gets negotiated.

Advertising Media Director Duties & Responsibilities

As an overview, a media director will work hand-in-hand with the client, the account team, and the creative department, to ensure that as many of the target demographic see their ad campaign as possible. Using a mixture of market research, analysis, pricing structures, and client considerations, the media director is ultimately responsible for making sure the ad campaign has enormous reach for the best possible price.

Regarding specific duties, during a typical month at an advertising agency, the media director will usually:

  • Meet with media salespeople
  • Manage a team of media planners and buyers
  • Attend strategy meetings for new business
  • Pitch to potential clients
  • Contact existing clients to discuss their projects
  • Check the status of client accounts
  • Plan for future media buys
  • Meet with vendors offering media opportunities
  • Check in on the latest trends, particularly in the social space

Advertising media directors are in charge of the research, development, and implementation of a client's media plan, and may need to perform additional tasks to achieve a positive outcome for their clients.

Advertising Media Director Salary

Make no mistake, the media director is a position of great responsibility and therefore comes with a salary to reflect that. It is a well-paid career, although an advertising media director's salary still varies based on the level of experience, geographical location, and other factors.

 Source: Salary.com, 2019

Education, Training & Certification

You cannot become a media director straight out of college. It is a position, like a creative director or an account director, that requires a great deal of hard-nosed industry experience. In addition to that experience, most media directors will also be well educated.

  • Education: You can expect a media director to have at least a 4-year college degree (a master’s degree is preferred) in advertising, communications, journalism, business administration, marketing, finance/accounting, or economics.
  • Experience: A typical media director will have a minimum of five to 10 years’ experience in a media department, with hands-on experience in media research, media buying, and managing a staff of media experts.

Advertising Media Director Skills & Competencies

Education and job experience are important, but other skills also come into play for individuals who excel in this job. These skills include:

  • Excellent planning abilities: Must be extremely well-organized. It's particularly useful if an individual has prior experience in broadcast, print, outdoor, online and radio.
  • Social media savvy: It helps to have a continued awareness of the latest social media and advertising trends.
  • Negotiation skills: People with superb negotiation skills can achieve great pricing and audience reach for their clients.
  • Stress management: Working well under pressure, and thriving under tight deadlines are key for success in this position.
  • Team player: Individuals that can easily work with a wide range of people, including clients, salespeople and their own staff will excel.
  • Analytical: Analytical minds have an edge because they can analyze research data to determine the best placement for the client's needs

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for advertising media managers over the next decade relative to other occupations and industries is good, driven by the continued use and importance of advertising, promotional, and marketing campaigns.

Employment is expected to grow by about 10% over the next ten years, which is faster growth than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

With the continued growth of internet-based advertising, candidates who excel at navigating the digital world will have the best job prospects.

Work Environment

Advertising media managers work mainly for advertising firms, public relations and other, related services firms. They typically report to their firm's top management.

Work Schedule

Most advertising media directors work a full-time schedule. They may need to put in overtime hours on a regular basis, due to the constant deadlines involved in the work.

How to Get the Job


If you're still in college, interning at an ad agency gives you the opportunity to see what working in the media department will be like. It is also a fantastic way to make contacts, and get references for jobs elsewhere if no positions are available at that agency after you graduate.


Like most other advertising professions, you can expect some heavy competition when trying to get into the media department. You will not immediately step into the role of media director; there is a ladder to climb, and before that hefty position comes a role as a media buyer and media planner, with both junior and senior variations of those in the mix.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming an advertising media director also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017