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What Is Media Buying and How Does It Work?

Media Buying

Media buying is a key component of every marketing strategy that helps ensure ads reach the right audiences. Though it doesn’t get a lot of buzz, media buying is responsible for many of the targeted ads we see as we browse the internet.

But what is media buying, why is it important, and how does it work? Let’s explore the strategy behind media buying to see how it affects the buyer’s journey and your brand’s mission results.

What Is Media Buying?

Media buying is the process of acquiring real estate or inventory for ad placement. In traditional advertising, this includes buying a television spot to place an ad to air locally, regionally, or nationwide. Naturally, prime spots that are shown during an event like the Super Bowl or during a popular television show are more expensive but also offer greater reach and potential returns.

In digital advertising, media buying applies to websites such as online news publications. Like television ads, the media buy price depends on factors including where the ad appears on the page, the number of pages on which it’s shown, the size of the ad, how long it will run, and how much traffic the site receives.

In short, the more exposure the ad receives, the more expensive the spot.

Why Does Media Buying Matter?

Media buying is an important aspect of your strategic flight plan. When you approach this process with a goal and strategy in mind, it can have a significant impact on your campaign’s success.

Successful advertising requires much more than the creative elements, such as visuals and copy. It also involves careful consideration about where your ads are placed – and at what times – to ensure your target audience sees them.

Often, media buyers purchase ads across a wide range of traditional and digital outlets, including television, radio, websites, and social media platforms, as well as different types of digital display ads.

How Is Media Buying Different Than Earned or Owned Media?

Paid media (media buying) is content you pay to place in front of an audience as an ad or sponsorship. Owned media is content that you create and control, like your website or social media pages. Earned media is content that others create about you, primarily as news coverage, but can also include customer reviews or Instagram posts.

All these types of media are different, but they often interact and overlap, and each is a valuable part of your marketing strategy.

Media Buying vs. Media Planning

Often used interchangeably, media buying and media planning are two different aspects of the advertising formula.

Media planning is the strategy that marketers put into ad buying. Buyers can focus on this plan to negotiate and purchase ad space, and it follows a similar process to other marketing tactics.

A media plan includes:

  • Campaign objectives and goals, such as conversion or brand awareness
  • Marketing metrics and KPIs based on the goals, such as email list sign ups, website visits, store visits, and app downloads
  • Audience details and segments
  • Budget
  • Relevant market insights
  • Media mix, which includes the types of media that will reach key audiences
  • Time frame
  • Campaign monitoring
  • Creative specifications

Media buying is putting the media strategy (plan) into action. Without a plan in place, media buying can be an expensive waste of time and effort.

There are several ways for buyers to purchase media, including:

  • Purchasing ads directly from a channel or publisher
  • Bidding on and purchasing space through networks
  • Using programmatic technology to buy and sell ads

Digital Media Buying

Digital media buying, also known as programmatic buying, automates the purchase process. The negotiation still occurs, but it happens faster and through different marketplaces.

The automated structure has three main components:

  • Demand-side platforms (DSP): Advertisers and ad agencies set up campaigns, bid on inventory, and optimize ads.
  • Supply-side platforms (SSP): Publishers sell ad inventory.
  • Ad exchange: A marketplace where advertisers and publishers buy and sell ad inventory using real-time bidding (RTB).

Digital media buying is often more cost-effective and more efficient than traditional methods of media buying, allowing marketing teams to focus on performance instead of negotiations and relationship building.

What Does the Media Buying Process Look Like?

There are several crucial steps in the media buying process:

Pre-Placement Research

As mentioned, an entire strategy goes into media buying. This is usually the most time-consuming part of the process.

With your strategy, you must consider:

  • What your marketing goals are
  • How to reach your target audience
  • How to stand out from the competition
  • Which mediums are ideal for your goals and audience
Price Negotiation

Most consumers don’t stop searching after finding one product or service offering. They check out what’s available in the market, do some brand research, read reviews, and compare prices.

Media buyers also need to shop smart and avoid putting money down at the first opportunity. For example, if you have an existing relationship with a media vendor, you may be able to get a discount or bonus placements.

Ad Placement

Once you’ve narrowed your target audience, found the likely places where they’ll see and interact with your campaign, and negotiated the price, it’s time to decide on placement.

At this stage, you’re responsible for delivering your media to the vendor and ensuring they comply with your requests. This includes everything from outlining the ad appropriately to making sure it appears during the times and on the channels where you’ve paid for it to appear.

Keep in mind that your placement isn’t set in stone, especially on digital marketing channels. If your ad isn’t performing in one place, you can move it elsewhere. If you find that you’re getting more traction at a certain time of day, you can modify the settings to adjust for that, but it may cost you more.

Successful ad placement isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing. You should always pay attention to your ad’s performance, adjust your settings, and make changes as needed. Which brings us to…

Measuring Performance

When you’re working with a publication, it’s wise to touch base with them and pay attention to the data. Were your ad placements effective? Did ads perform better at specific times of day? Did you allocate too much of your ad spend to one advertising channel?

Look for patterns, both positive and negative, and make note of them to inform tweaks you can make to your current campaign and your future campaigns.

Media Buying Process

Media buying has several steps to maximize success, which include:

  1. Setting a budget for media inventory
  2. Sending requests for proposals (RFPs) to media outlets
  3. Finalizing media orders and submitting an insertion order (IO) to these outlets
  4. Designing creatives according to the specifications of the advertising space
  5. Launching ad campaigns with DSP or SSP platforms
  6. Monitoring marketing metrics and KPIs to see if you’re reaching your campaign goals

Tips for Successful Media Buying

Working on your first campaign? Here are some tips to ensure a smooth media buying process:

  • Know your campaign, industry ad rates, and ad placement rates.
  • Do your research about media outlets and determine your ad’s relevance.
  • Bid according to the customer journey stages and adjust as needed for maximum performance.
  • Be mindful of your budget calculation. You may need to reserve some budget allocation for premium spots or changes during the campaign.
  • Avoid misaligned messages. Your ads should be cohesive across all types of digital advertising.
  • Focus on attribution and fine-tune your campaigns while they’re in progress, rather than at the end.
  • Consider bringing in a digital advertising agency like Rocket Launch to streamline the process and increase your chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Still have questions? Find out more about media buying:

What Are the Three Rules of Media Buying?

The most important rules of media buying are:

  • Know your audience
  • Set clear goals
  • Evaluate results

These rules ensure that your media buying campaign is targeted to the right audience, designed to achieve results, and cost-effective.

What Is a Media Buying Platform?

A media buying platform is a tool that enables the purchasing of advertising space around the web. It facilitates interactions between the buyer and seller. Some of the popular options include Google Display & Video 360, The Trade Desk, AdColony, Amazon DSP, AdCritter, and Adobe Advertising Cloud.

What Are the Categories of Media Buying?

Media buying includes purchasing traditional media, such as radio, television, print, and outdoor; and digital media, such as websites, online publications, social media, streaming services, and apps.

Is Media Buying the Same as PPC?

Media buying and performance marketing are closely connected, but media buying isn’t performance marketing based on clicks like cost per click (CPC) or pay per click (PPC). In some cases, media buying may involve a flat rate.

Ready to Ignite Your Campaign?

When you’re buying media, ad placement isn’t accidental. It may take some trial and error as you enter the optimization process, but once you have a clear strategy in mind, you can rely on more successful ads to achieve your marketing goals. Better yet, when you have a mission-ready digital advertising agency like Rocket Launch with you on your journey, you can rely on a crew with the experience and industry expertise needed to launch your ads into the stratosphere. Contact us to start your launch sequence today!

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