Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the list of the different digital media channels goes on and on. As media continues to grow, it can be hard to keep up. A busy brand doesn’t have the time for that.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to help you create a media strategy and another to implement it for the best price?
That’s exactly the role of the media buyer and media planner. This post will walk you through the basics of media planning and buying.
First off, let’s compare these two processes.
- Media planning involves selecting the appropriate mix of media channels to achieve advertising objectives and reach the target audience, requiring research, budgeting, and setting goals.
- Media buying focuses on acquiring advertising space or time in selected media channels, emphasizing negotiation, cost-effectiveness, and monitoring ad campaign performance.
- The processes of media planning and buying are critical to digital marketing strategies, involving various tactics and channels to connect with audiences effectively and ensure the best return on investment.
What Is Media Planning?
Media planning is the process of arranging and managing advertising objectives by choosing the right mix of media vehicles to reach its target audience.
Media planners figure out which marketing channel to use for a new campaign. To make the most effective decision, they will complete research to figure out how to deliver what the client wants.
They will then set a budget, outline objectives and goals for the campaign, and choose more than one platform if necessary. A media planner will have certain skill sets to get the job done, such as:
- Attention to detail
- Negotiation skills
- Commercial awareness
- Understanding of numeracy and data analysis
- Organizational skills
- Thought leadership
- Interpersonal and communication skills
The process of media planning includes these four steps:
Internal Market Research
Conducting internal market research involves learning everything possible about the client. A media planner will soon understand the client’s brand identity to determine their unique selling point.
External Market Research
External market research is about looking at what the competitors in the same industry are doing. A media planner will explore how a brand is currently creating ads and how it compares to the competition.
They’ll also look at the intended audience and what attracts them. It will help them decide on what media outlets to use.
Setting Objectives and Goals
A campaign is created with the combination of what the client wants and what the media planner believes they should achieve. A media planner can make every dollar of your marketing budget work in your favor.
By working with media buyers, a media planner can create objectives and goals they can reach for a brand.
Creating a Budget
Determining a brand’s message is just one step in the media planning process. A planner will then allocate funds to ensure the message is seen on the respective platforms.
While creating a budget, the media planner will allocate a percentage to each channel. For example, a brand may spend 50% of the budget on social media and leave the rest for mobile ads, billboards, radio, etc.
What Is Media Buying?
Media buying is the purchase of advertising spaces or time from a media outlet. It usually involves negotiating rates, placing orders, and tracking results.
Media buyers will receive the strategy created by the media planners. Once they get that strategy, they will work on the most effective media channel and look for cost-effective options.
You may integrate media buyers and planners under the same roof, but media buyers sometimes come from a separate agency. To be a great media buyer, these skills are necessary:
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Understanding of media analytics software
- Organization skills
- Ability to multitask
- Attention to detail
- Ability to understand a lot of information at once
- Identification of target audiences
A good media buyer will have a complete understanding of the current marketplace. They are also responsible for creating relationships with vendors.
Here are the specifics of what media buyers do:
Digital Media buying is a lot about who you know. A media buyer can create the best return on investment for a brand by accessing the best deals through their relationships.
Knowing About Media Channels
Knowing the right people is important as a media buyer, but understanding media channels is also a huge part of the job. There are different target audiences that media channels are best for.
A media buyer will have the best knowledge of media channels to find the perfect media space for a brand. They will also have the negotiation skills to ensure a brand gets the best deal possible.
Ad space will have a price based on the traffic and exposure of the media space. It’s no wonder why Super Bowl commercial spots are pricey.
If the media planner allocates the budget correctly, the price tag would be worth the return. A media buyer must be an expert negotiator to buy a specific ad space below or at the budgeted amount.
Tweaking Ad Campaigns
The media buyer is responsible for the strategy after the media planner sends it off. They will then keep a close eye on the channels used to ensure the campaign is effective throughout its lifecycle.
A media buyer is flexible during this process as they gather data about the campaign’s performance. If the project gets off course, they can use specific tools like programmatic advertising to keep the campaign aligned.
After the campaign is finished, a media plan will be created. This media plan is the collective result of the final campaign evaluation.
Media Planning and Buying Terminology
When working on an advertising campaign, you’ll come across many different terms you may be unfamiliar with. Here are the terms correlating media planning and buying.
Inventory is another word for ad placements describing the available ad space. It could be an amount based on what a publisher can sell or what the media buyer purchases.
You’ll hear this term in traditional and digital advertising.
Media mix refers to all the media channels a brand uses to achieve its campaign goals. For example, your media mix could be online videos, radio, social media, and SEM.
Your media mix is whatever you use for a campaign to reach your marketing goals.
A media planner and buyer will schedule certain ads at a time and on a specific day for various media channels. Scheduling will depend on the target audience.
Targeting is one of the more common terms you’ll hear in marketing. A media planner will identify the ideal audience that should hear the campaign message through internal and external market research.
This is another common term you can’t go without hearing in marketing. Once targeting is complete, the chosen audience/market is the target audience/market. These groups can be specific or broad.
Manual bidding is not the same as automation or programmatic buying. It is the opposite.
Manual bidding involves changing the bid on ads based on engagement, keyword performance, cost, etc.
Automatic Bidding/Programmatic Media Buying
Automatic bidding, otherwise known as the ad programmatic digital media buying process, is an automated process of buying and selling ad space. If done in real-time, it is known as real-time bidding (RTB).
It replaces a manual negotiation based on algorithms in digital technology. We’ll go into more detail about this term later in the article.
Real-Time Bidding (RTB)
Real-time bidding is when media vendors sell ad impressions through an ad exchange platform. Every impression is sold when it becomes available in real-time, hence the name.
As market conditions change, advertisers can adjust their bids.
Guaranteed Inventory/Direct Buys
A media planner or buyer can secure bulk ad placements at a fixed CPM (cost per thousand impressions). This method guarantees that certain people will see the ad from their campaign.
The guarantee comes at a higher cost, but since there is no risk, many brands find it worth it.
Non-guaranteed inventory is sometimes interchangeable with real-time bidding. It works similarly to an auction as advertisers bid against each other to secure the best ad placement possible.
It is called a non-guaranteed inventory because the ad placement is not guaranteed. Guaranteed inventory will have top priority for the best ad placements over this method.
For those with smaller budgets, this method may work best. However, it involves a lot of monitoring of the ad performance in real time.
Cost Per Thousand (CPM)
CPM refers to the cost of an ad per 1,000 people that see it. The price will be higher if more people see it and vice versa.
Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP is a document that a media buyer or other member of an agency will submit during the bidding process. The intent is to express interest in ad placement by reaching out to a media vendor.
The Media Planning and Buying Process in Simple Terms
Simply put, the digital media buying and planning processes take just five steps to complete.
- Identifying a target audience through research
- Understanding the interest of the audience
- Finding the audience at their most receptive times
- Delivering creative content that drives the audience to take action
- Testing ad placements over and over to see what is and is not working
The five-step process can help a brand connect with its audience as they are going through the buyer journey. The four stages of a buyer’s journey are: attract, convert, close, and delight.
During the attract stage, a brand can reach the audience through any of the following digital media buying tactics:
- Social media
- Digital display
At the convert stage, brands will target the audience using social media, video, content, retargeting, and landing pages. They are then led to the close stage, where lead nurture campaigns, email optimization, and CRM database marketing can be used.
Last, we have the delight stage. It’s where a customer falls in love with a brand after it has worked so hard with media planning and buying. This stage typically involves client communications and social media engagement.
How Media Buys Are Negotiated
To get a brand the best deal, a media buyer must know how to negotiate a media buy properly. After receiving a strategy from the media planner, a media buyer will execute the plan in the following ways:
During this process, the research never ends. The more information that is known, the better. Like media planners, media buyers must complete research to know the answers to these questions:
- What is the cost of leads and user acquisition in the industry?
- What is the standard cost of ad placement on various channels?
- What types of ads and sizes perform best on those channels?
The answer to those three simple questions can help a media buyer understand how to create a successful campaign.
During each negotiation, a media buyer will have detailed information on the budget. For premium spots, brands may be willing to up the ante.
Before getting to the negotiation process, it is essential to know the overall budget. A media buyer will figure out how to make the most of that budget while understanding the wishes of the brand.
A general rule of thumb in media buying is that a professional will make their first bid lower than their target price. It opens the floor up for negotiation and may lead to leftover money in the budget.
A good media buyer will always have a backup plan and multiple relationships with vendors that they can reach out to. Even if the brand has its sights set on a specific TV network or publisher, the spots may be filled or out of the budget.
When this happens, a media buyer should already have additional options to devise a fast solution to the problem. A brand needs to know when to back away and try a different option.
This is an essential step in the targeted media buying negotiation process. Buyers should always consider what they want their lead filters to be before the negotiation ends. You can’t always adjust filters after.
A media buyer with a good relationship with a vendor is likelier to get value add-ons free of charge. It gives a brand more exposure than its budget originally aimed for.
A written contract will detail any negotiations between the media buyer and vendor. Without this, a vendor may not provide what was negotiated.
The two main types of negotiations used in media buying are zero-sum and integrative.
Zero-sum negotiations happen when one or both parties cannot compromise on an agreement. It is not a great negotiation style as it can ruin the ongoing relationship with a media buyer and vendor.
Through integrative negotiations, both parties agree so that each side gets a good deal. Because both parties are happy, this is the most effective media buying negotiation type.
Media Buying Tactics
As mentioned above, many different media buying tactics can place an ad in front of the ideal audience. A media planner will decide which to use based on the research.
It is not enough to target an audience one time. Even after converting them into customers, it is essential to continue advertising to them.
When you connect to your target market repeatedly, you’ll have a complete inbound marketing strategy that relies on media planning and buying.
Programmatic Digital Display Advertising
We’ve already covered the definition of programmatic digital display advertising. But we want to uncover more about this media buying tactic. Using an algorithm, media buyers can bid on ad space matching consumer profiles.
Through this tactic, you can develop your target audience with the data you have on your current customers. You can match the customers you already have with potential customers you want to target.
You may have identified more than one audience, and that is fine. In fact, you can go beyond that and layer on more audiences to extend your reach for a specific stage in the buyer funnel.
Here’s where to find the additional layer of audiences:
- Demographic variables
- Geofencing/geographic variables
- Behavioral variables
- Keywords (SEO)
- Interest categories
- IP Address Targeting
- In-market audiences
- Lookalike audiences and custom audiences
- Retargeting and remarketing
The goal of programmatic digital display advertising and all other media buying tactics is to move potential customers through the funnel. Think about the decision/purchase you want them to make. Refer back to your objectives and goals if needed.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
PPC advertising is another media buying technique that the digital world has adopted. It involves placing ads in front of those searching for keywords based on intent.
When ads are placed in front of this audience, there is a better chance of generating awareness and gaining leads. A media buyer can use this technique to give people exactly what they want.
The variables for PPC advertising may include the following:
- Marital status
- Parental Status
- Household income
- Day of the week
- Time of the week
- Level of education
- Homeownership status
- Type of device used
Paid search campaigns will generate huge click-through rates compared to other B2B digital marketing tactics. This is why media planners often include PPC advertising in a budget. Luckily, it’s a pretty affordable option as well.
There are three steps to a PPC campaign process:
- Create objectives, goals, and targeting metrics
- Use priority keywords and create ads with those words
- Run a campaign to bring traffic to landing pages
Google AdWords is a great place to start searching for keywords. Bing is another search engine you may want to look into, although Google is the most popular.
Search keywords are bought and used in the campaign. As the campaign continues, it will be monitored daily to up the conversion rate and decrease conversion cost.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an important media buying tactic because consumers rely heavily on the internet. This technique allows a brand to increase its site position on search engine result pages, the most popular being Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
When SEO is incorporated into the media planning and buying strategy, brand pages appear in search results and bring your message to your ideal audience.
Social Media Buying
Social media has grown into more than just social platforms. Consumers can now purchase directly from apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
It means many users bypass the online search to make a purchasing decision. So while you need SEO as a part of a strategy, you also need to consider the users shopping directly from social media.
A media planner will find the right social media channels your brand needs to reach depending on who your target audiences are. There are various types of campaigns you can run on social media platforms.
Creating content on social media platforms remains free. However, getting your content seen requires payment and a great social media marketing strategy. A social media buyer will find the right paid campaigns to execute on different social media channels.
Magazine and Newspaper Buying
Information in magazines and newspapers tends to be retained longer because people can read more quickly than they listen. However, brands tend to avoid these mediums are they are considered old school and only reach certain people.
Depending on the target audience, a media buyer may place an ad in a magazine or newspaper because consumers trust the publications they pick up. Another benefit is that they can reach more than the target audience.
A local brand may allocate a very small percentage of its media buying budget to its local newspaper. This medium allows marketers to choose where their ads are placed for more precise targeting.
TV and Radio Buying
Even though a media planner may deem it necessary to allocate most of the budget to online and offline digital marketing tactics, traditional media buying should not be overlooked. TV and radio are still major buying channels.
Even as social media takes over, the channel with the biggest reach remains to be TV. Because of technological advances, people can watch live TV wherever they are on their tablets or smartphones.
Over-the-top (OTT) TV and traditional TV advertising should be part of a media procurement strategy when a brand can afford it. A media buyer will use analytics and ratings to decide which TV placements are best for the brand.
As for radio, with the addition of music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, etc., more opportunities are created for brands to reach people. It’s a great way to implement repeat exposure techniques.
Buying a radio spot through your local or national station will depend on your audience. Through media planning research, an expert can decide if a traditional radio spot is a right path for your brand or a bust.
OTT advertising is delivered through streaming video services over the internet. It gets its name “over-the-top” from its ability to bypass traditional TV that normally controls the distribution of media.
Media planners and media buyers may opt for this technique as it is a way to reach their intended audience directly. It allows for more freedom and leniency compared to pre-planned broadcast schedules.
There is also no need to worry about geographic limitations with OTT advertising space. Other benefits of the OTT method include the following:
- Precise targeting
- Enhanced ad relevance
- Increased engagement
- Focused media buying strategies
- Improved accountability
OTT advertisements may be displayed across a device, such as Roku, or a streaming service. You can buy these ads through Guaranteed IOs (insertion orders) or with data-driven programmatic buying.
Guaranteed IO has set-priced buys that are based on frequency and reach. Programmatic buys for OTT work the same as other ad spaces and are based on real-time bidding.
The most well-known out-of-home ad is billboards. These ads reach people outside of their homes during their day-to-day lives.
A media buyer will work with a creative team to get the best ideas for an out-of-home ad or offline advertisement.
The job of a media buyer is not completed once the advertisements are in motion. Along with monitoring the progress, a media buyer must evaluate invoices to ensure a brand receives everything as negotiated.
Without this step of the process, a brand may not get everything they pay for. Don’t let that budget go to waste.
What Can You Get Through a Media Buyer?
If you can’t tell so far from this guide, media buying is more than trading money for ad space. Media buyers must create meaningful vendor relationships which can save brands money and still provide them with a good reach.
An experienced media buyer also comes with these additional benefits:
The Best Deal
A professional media buyer will give you the best return on your investment. Because of their network of relationships, they can cut you the best deal with a vendor.
Even without prior relationships with a specific ad space vendor, a media buyer has the negotiation skills to get a brand’s best price. They will also understand the average industry standards, so there won’t be any overpaying for brand exposure.
These professionals may be able to extend the benefits of an agreement with “value-added” or “added value.” These terms refer to ad space added to an agreement for free.
When an experienced media buyer has a great enough relationship with a vendor, they can negotiate prices and get value added to the agreement. It often happens when a media buyer has previously worked with someone.
The Best Slots
By working with a media planner, a media buyer can understand where your online advertising budget needs to be spent. They will base this on the placements that generally receive the most engagement.
There are a lot of trends that can affect ad availability. Media buyers stay on top of these trends and adjust accordingly.
For example, they can negotiate ad placements into a contract if ad availability is scarce due to political campaigns, major sporting events, etc.
The Best Practices
Various media buying tactics, some covered in this article, can lead to conversions. However, it is up to the media planner and buyer to determine which strategy is best for a specific brand.
Because they have experience with the best practices for certain industries, they can apply these techniques to any brand they come across.
What If You Don’t Work with a Media Buyer?
A brand may face these challenges if it operates without a professional media buyer with experience.
Inaccurate Marketing Measurement
Without a professional media buyer, a business may not understand which campaigns are working. This knowledge allows a brand to allocate its budget better and adjust where necessary.
When you have a media mix, getting data representing all platforms can become difficult. For this reason, a brand won’t know when a certain ad is doing well or busting.
Hiring a media buyer with a large network of relationships can keep a brand from experiencing ad fraud. It happens when a company pays for ad space on a fraudulent site.
It tends to happen most often with the use of programmatic advertising. A media buyer will ensure they can review the sites where ads are placed to prevent wasting budget money.
A business may not understand the power a contract holds during the media buying process. A brand may go without getting a written contract altogether.
If what was negotiated is not displayed in a contract, the specifications aren’t likely to be met. A media buyer can help avoid unclear contracts during the negotiation process.
As you can see from this guide, there is much to do with media planning and buying. Although you can try doing this yourself, hiring a professional will make the job much easier.
In today’s digital world, media planning and buying look very different. Yet, they are critical to a digital marketing strategy.
With an experienced marketer, you can reap all of the benefits and avoid the major challenges that stem from media buying. There are also media buying and planning courses available, especially for beginners.
If you still don’t know where to begin, start by contacting me directly for digital media planning and buying training and other marketing needs.
Here are frequently asked questions about media planning vs. buying that will help you create a better marketing approach.
the rise of social media has changed how people get their news and information. People are now more likely to get their news from friends and family on social networks than from traditional news sources. It has implications for how advertisers should approach marketing their products and services. For example, they must look at overall trends or macro-level events and monitor shifting demographics.
Here is a list of the most common media channels used for buying and planning:
Print Media: Magazines, newspapers, and direct mail
Radio Media: Radio advertising, including spot commercials, network/local programming, and syndication
Out-of-Home (OOH) Media: Billboards, transit shelters, mall kiosks, taxi cabs, and sports venues
Television Media: Broadcast TV (e.g., ABC, CBS), cable TV (e.g., CNN), spot TV
Digital Media: Banner ads, email campaigns, paid search engine results (i.e., Google AdWords), social media marketing (Facebook paid ads)
With the ever-changing landscape of the media industry, it is more important for media buyers and planners to stay updated with the latest industry and technology changes. Here are a few ways to do so:
1. Keep up with trade publications
2. Attend industry events
3. Stay active on social media
4. Read industry news sources