Building Your Media Planning Toolbox with Tanya Zhuk

Lisa Solomon, Founder

One of the most rewarding parts of the business of Marketing, Advertising and Media is the knowledge you gain from the experts you meet along the way. As someone who has spent most of my career working with media teams, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the best in the business, and Tanya Zhuk is certainly one of those people.  Tanya is a media planning expert and is passionate about teaching the fundamentals of media planning in order to advance our industry.

Media planning is the intricate process of selecting the ideal mix of media channels to create a successful marketing message. It is a vital aspect of any marketing campaign, whether it’s print, television, radio, social, OOH or digital. During our talk, Tanya shared some proven methods on media planning to help you #PowerUp your skills and build your media planning toolbox. I am excited to share more about Tanya as well as her upcoming course: Fundamentals of Media Planning!

Lisa Solomon (LS): Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Tanya Zhuk (TZ): I’ve learned that I’m having the most fun when I’m traveling, hiking, cooking, or eating. I love my personal time and love to spend time chilling in front of the TV watching my favorite shows or discovering new content. I find that I have two recharge modes. One is when I’m surrounded by friends and loved ones and another when I’m completely alone chillin’ on the couch. I think it’s important to recognize what mood you’re in and what will make you feel your best.
I love to travel and see different parts of the world that are fundamentally different than where I grew up or where I live (I grew up in Brooklyn and live in Los Angeles). Many years ago, I made a goal that no matter where I am in my life I will take at least one international trip per year. Last year I traveled to four different continents and explored four new countries that I’ve never been to before.
I also love learning about food and eating my way through various places. I love to cook and have guests over to try out new recipes. And finally, I love spending time outdoors. About 12 years ago, a friend took me on a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu and I fell in love with nature. Before that, I never liked “nature touching me” but I’ve now hiked some of the tallest mountains in the world and try to include nature trails as part of all the travel I do.

LS: What are you most proud of in your career so far? 
TZ: My most standout business memory was when I worked closely with my agency leadership on LG in New York and successfully engaged with clients in mobile and gaming for their products. But my passion is in building teams and growing knowledge while training others. 

LS: What led you to become a digital media executive?
TZ: When I graduated college all I knew is that advertising appealed to me. I majored in Mass Communication at USC and had taken classes in the field. I also used to watch Who’s the Boss as a kid and I loved watching Angela working in the city and being an advertising executive – she appeared so strong and smart. During my first experience at Deutsch, they taught all the entry-level hires the various departments within the advertising organization and what they did. Media stood out the most to me. Someone even told me, “It’s a thankless job, you work late hours, you live in Excel, and you dig around to see what works. Only to have it all be blown up and having to redo it again.” That didn’t scare me, it thrilled me. The rest of the path was paved with leads and mentors who spent time investing in me and supporting me and opening their door to me when I had questions. 

LS: What kind of course or resources do you wish you had when you were starting your career to set you on the right path and encourage lifelong learning?
TZ: I created this course because I wish someone took the time to teach me this content at some point. There are many on-the-job training opportunities, and fundamentals are key. A course I would personally love to take is corporate communication. That is, working through how people speak with one another. What their expectations are and how to be a better communicator. While I majored in communications and believe I’m a clear communicator, most people are not. And I would need to adjust my communication and approach when encountering people with various communication styles.

LS: What tools do you find indispensable for those working in media?
TZ: Tools change from agency to agency. Everyone has a proprietary suite of planning tools. Knowing them is paramount in working, but you don’t have to love one over another. They are imperfect but they all do the same thing and knowing why and how they work makes working with them easier. Other than tools, I would say the most important and indispensable skill to have is recognizing the value of other teams and experts and building a strong relationship with them. You should know the names of your research, operations, and traffic folks. When it’s crunch time and you need answers, these are the unsung heroes that help you get the job done.

LS: Any advice for those looking to get into media? How can our students learn more about media? 
TZ: I think it’s important to know about the key process makers and leaders in the space such as the 4A’s or the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Sign up for their newsletters and read them daily. When I was younger, I would get to work 30 minutes before my boss and read all of the trends and emails that were sent to me from the night before This helped me stay on top of changes and new technology and I was able to provide helpful guidance. I’m not saying everyone should do this, but if you’ve got a commute to work and can spend the time reading the latest trashy novel or watching YouTube videos or catching up on your industry trends – do the latter, it will help you succeed. 

LS: Who or what most inspires your work? 
TZ: I’m inspired by young media planners. I love challenging and being challenged and the most rewarding things that inspires me to think bigger are the conversations I have with new planners who see opportunity in everything.

LS: Where and how do you work best?
TZ: I can do work under every circumstance. But I thrive when things explode a little. Where everyone pitches in and needs to rush to get the project out. While this happens during new business pitches a lot and it’s stressful, it also shows what everyone is capable of. This is not sustainable for me all the time, but that injection of adrenaline is thrilling and helps me refocus on priorities and motivations.

LS: Through which opportunity have you learned the most over your career? 
TZ: I’d like to think that every career milestone drove me to the next and was equally as important as the one before that. I’m sure there are things I haven’t learned yet and things I will believe to be more valuable as my career progresses. The main thing for me is to feel like I’m constantly moving forward and growing.

LS: How do you hope to impact your community?
TZ: I hope to be a person my clients trust, my team respects ,and people know that they can rely on me to always tell it like it is. I think I’ve been pretty good at keeping to that motto.

LS: What’s the best advice you ever received? 
TZ: 50% of the time perception is reality.

LS: What excites you for the future?
TZ: The media space is constantly evolving. When I started in advertising, digital media was only in its infancy and there were no mobile ads. Five years ago, people said that people don’t have any more time in the day to add a new media channel and that consumption of media by channel would go down to accommodate new channels – that is proven to be wrong as people multitask and spend time with multiple channels simultaneously. This leaves me hopeful and excited for what is next.

LS:  What is still your biggest challenge? 
TZ: Audience reach is still the biggest challenge. There is more fragmentation in the space. And with mergers and acquisitions there are fewer players doing the same thing.    

LS: What surprising lessons have you learned along the way? 
TZ: Having the right answer doesn’t make you smart, doesn’t win the business, nor win those around you to your side.  

LS :What do you want your legacy to be?
TZ: To inspire young new planners to do more than they expected of themselves.

LS: What’s next for you?
TZ: My next chapter is not written.  I’m working on a few drafts however. ☺

Tanya Zhuk has over ten years of ad agency and publisher/entertainment experience. She has spent most of her career working for major media and advertising agencies in Los Angeles and New York. Her last experience was a culmination of many years of planning and buying where she led the integrated team for Amazon Studios, launching campaigns for their robust streaming and theatrical business.

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