The key to a successful marketing campaign is more than just a catchy slogan put in front of your audience on repeat. In order to build campaigns that drive marketing ROI, your team will need to have a strong, resonating messaging that can make its way to your audience at the right time and for the right price.

What is Media Buying?

Media buying is a process used in paid marketing efforts. The goal is to identify and purchase ad space on channels that are relevant to the target audience at the optimal time, for the least amount of money. Media buying is a process relevant to both traditional marketing channels (television, radio, print) and digital channels (websites, social media, streaming). When done effectively, media buyers achieve maximum exposure among their target market for the least amount of spend. 

What is a Media Buyer in Marketing?

Media buyers oversee the media buying process, with input from the media planning team. With an understanding of marketing goals and target audience preferences given by the media planning team, media buyers execute the actual purchase of the advertisement space. A huge part of the media buyer position is negotiating with the sites, networks, and other channels they want ads to appear on. They must ensure they are purchasing the correct placements at the correct times, for the correct duration, all within strict budgets. 

Media buyers should also use marketing performance tools to track key performance metrics and delivery to ensure the ad is placed in accordance with the agreement and that it is meeting campaign goals. 

What is the Difference Between Media Buying and Media Planning?

While media buyers and media planners certainly work closely together, their roles are very different. In short, media planning is the first step. Based on the conclusions and strategies determined by this team, media buyers execute on the media plan – placing the agreed upon ads on the appropriate channels

Media Planning

The process of media planning is focused on establishing an audience, conducting market research, establishing a budget, and building out goals. Media planners work with their clients to understand who the target audience is for their offering, which channels that audience uses and at what times, and what type of messaging that audience is most likely to engage with. With this information the planning team will select which channel they want to purchase ad space on, and for what price. 

Media Buying

With the media plan established, media buyers connect with their counterparts across the agreed upon media sites. These are often sales / account executives, whose responsibility it is to find relevant advertisers. These two parties negotiate placement, time and cost. Media buyers often use the following tactics to execute on media plans:

  • Manual bidding: Bidding on ad space and managing bids directly through an ad platform such as AdWords. 
  • Programmatic buys: AI and algorithm enabled real-time bidding on ad space that matches consumer profiles (e.g. fashion designers leveraging a platform that will automatically bid on and place ads on fashion-oriented channels).
  • Direct buys: When a media buyer negotiates ad rates and run times with a specific advertiser (e.g. fashion designers working directly with the Vogue team to place ads on their site / magazine). 

Why Media Buying is Important 

Effective media buying goes far beyond the actual transaction of money for ad space. Media buying teams can create impactful relationships with media owners that result in greater reach with less investment. This enables marketing teams to increase conversions and demonstrate high ROI to clients and stakeholders. 

There are a few key benefits that come with using an experienced media buying team and process. 

Get the Best Deal

Media buyers often have a wide network of relationships, which they can leverage to maximize the value of your investment. Media buying professionals are well versed in negotiation techniques and common industry standards, such as the average cost of leads or what brand exposure should cost. Media buyers can also help extend the benefits of an agreement. In advertising the terms “value added” or “added value” refer to ad space or impressions tacked on to an agreement without charge. Experienced media buyers can negotiate prices to increase reach or frequency and can often get value added at media channels they have worked with in the past. 

Get the Best Slots

Media buyers understand where your advertising dollars should be spent, and which placements tend to get the most engagement. Media buyers stay aware of trends and world events (such as the Olympics or political campaigns) that may influence ad availability and negotiate ad placements directly into the contract to ensure ads are delivered as promised. 

Plan Campaigns with Best Practices

Media buyers understand what strategies will best lead to conversions (for example: placing ads at a certain time of day). Media buyers have experience working across publishers and channels. They bring the best practices they learned in previous campaigns and can apply them as they negotiate ad placements for maximum returns. 

Challenges of Media Buying

As with all marketing initiatives, investing in experienced media buying teams and processes means demonstrating value. To do this, media buying teams need analytical capabilities that allow them to attribute conversions and KPIs back to a specific ad. They also need access to real-time metrics in order to make in-campaign updates to ads that are underperforming. The top challenges when it comes to media buying are: 

Marketing Measurement

When it comes to spending media dollars, it is important for media buyers to understand which campaigns are working. They can then better allocate budgets. However, many companies struggle with applying an attribution model that accurately represents their entire media mix. This makes it difficult to know when a certain ad placement has performed as desired, triggering a specific conversion. 

Optimize Campaign In-Flight

Another challenge for media buyers is optimizing ads mid-campaign. Most marketing results aren’t available until after the campaign, making it too late to adjust advertising spend. To rectify this, marketing teams must invest in marketing platforms with the processing power to deliver granular insights on marketing performance while the campaign is active. 

Avoiding Ad Fraud

Ad fraud occurs when an organization pays for ad space on a fraudulent site, or when organizations have to pay more for an ad based on clicks/impressions from bots or click farms. This is especially prevalent in programmatic advertising. Programmatic buying can be beneficial for real-time ad placements, but can also result in ad fraud as there is minimal review of the sites where ads are being purchased, resulting in mismanaged dollars.

Clear Contracts

Contract negotiations can be another challenge in media buying.  Media buyers need to be sure that everything negotiated is stated clearly in the contract to ensure specific expectations are met. For example, if an advertiser only wants to target leads in the US, this should be clearly stated. When this step is overlooked, companies may waste money on a target audience that doesn’t fit.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *