What Is Media Buying?

The Media buying is a set of strategic wholesale multi-platform ad space purchases, negotiations, and arrangements aimed at finding the most advantageous ad placement at the lowest price for the period.

Media buying falls into the paid media category and generally means the procurement of media space and time for displaying ad creatives. It is more than just the selection of ad placements - it involves a lot of media planning. When buying media, the goal is to find the right place, time, and context to deliver relevant ads to the target audience and increase conversion rates, sales, or brand awareness. Digital media buying is time-based, meaning the buyer is paying for "renting" all possible ad placements on all possible platforms. So they must be available for the timeslot when it is convenient for the media buyer to bid for ad placement and place the ad. 

Programmatic helps brands and advertisers to place ads in real time and with the highest targeting precision, that's why around 83% of companies in the United States buy media programmatically according to eMarketer. Read here about things you need to know about programmatic buying. Now let's review the media buying steps one by one. 

programmatic spending stats

Stage One: Pre-launching

Advertising decisions related to media buying are not made overnight. In fact, the stage of meticulous preparation is the most time-consuming and presupposes in-depth research and careful media planning. In the pre-launch phase, the media buyer considers and makes relevant media choices. The core focus for media buyers is to ensure that the selected media outlets align with advertising objectives.

“Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” — David Ogilvy

  • Identify Target Audience, and Decide How to Reach It

First, media buyers should get a clear picture of the existing customers, and investigate who they are. Media planners should clearly understand what audience they should target. Distribute your audience into segments such as demographics (age, gender, social and marital status), geolocation (area, city, country), behavior (interests, hobbies), and other groups to understand with whom you are dealing. After getting to know your audience, try to find similarities and patterns to get an idea of the audience or people who may be interested in your product or service. After identifying the target group, think about the way to reach those people. Where do they go? How do they shop? Do they buy online or come directly to the venue? If you plan to advertise online, think about media channels to reach potential customers: search engine ads, website, blog advertisements, and social network platforms. Make sure you know what platforms and devices your target group uses.

  • Research Competitors

Here media buyers should investigate potential competitors, and get a feel of their digital media buying strategy. Identify where your competitors advertise, whom they target, what worked, and what didn’t work for them. Make market research. Learning from rivals’ experiences will save time and allow you to create smart advertising campaigns from the beginning.

  • Design Media Buying Strategy

Choose forms of advertising that correspond to your campaign goals: print ads in newspapers and magazines; video commercials on TV, online, and movie theaters; indoor posters and outdoor billboards; radio advertising; banner and text media; mobile advertising, and so on. Media buyers may opt to concentrate on one channel or buy media from different media owners and buy ad space simultaneously online, through radio, on TV, social media, or any other third-party media. However, this might be a bit challenging — for every media channel, there must be a personally tailored message that fits that specific channel. If media buyers prefer to advertise online, they must understand how programmatic media buying works and get to know the basics of real-time bidding

  • Choose Media Outlets, and Negotiate the Price

Now is the time to think through media planning strategy. Whether you cooperate with radio stations or newspaper publishers, it is important to negotiate the price of the media beforehand. Look for the best deals, and ask for discounts or bonuses that media vendors are ready to give. Compare offers from multiple publishers, and don’t be afraid to negotiate the price before media buying. If you buy media, discuss with the demand-side platform (DSP) provider its platform fees and service costs, and make sure there are no hidden fees. Here you can adjust the programmatic budget by setting the daily or monthly limits.

how dsp works

  • Allocate the Budget, and Plan the Campaign Execution

After identifying precisely to whom to advertise, where, and how to buy ad space, it’s time for media planners to get their hands wet. Set a target return on investment. Allocate a campaign budget according to the results you expect to achieve (clicks, conversions, sales completes, sign-ups, etc.). Estimate expenditures for a specific period, such as day, month, or quarter marketing budget. Think about how to distribute your budget across channels — offline and online. For real-time online advertising select the suitable payment model - cost per mille or pay per click. Plan every dollar you spend on ad space and don’t forget to account for unforeseen expenses.

Stage Two: Campaign Launch

Now that you're done with media planning, it is time for the campaign launch. During the launch phase, the main responsibility of the media buyer is to ensure effective media delivery and constant monitoring of the ad performance or campaign performance. At this stage, it is crucial for media buyers to analyze what works and what doesn’t and, based on those insights, make further decisions.

Ensure Media Delivery

As a media buyer, you must make sure the advertisement appears in the desired location, in front of the audience, and in the right context. Make sure to deliver highly relevant messages that bring value to consumers instead of disturbance or irritation. make sure you've picked the right ad space. Track the progress and the customer engagement after media buying.

Respond to Customer Behavior or Competitor Activities

Sometimes potential customers don’t interact with the advertisement as planned, and you don’t receive the desired response (clicks, buys, signs up, calls, etc.). In this case, be ready to adapt and change the strategy according to consumer feedback. Furthermore, track the performance of your competitors, and always be aware of industry trends.

Attention! Don’t be afraid to adjust the settings, budget, and/or media outlets during the campaign. Set up deadlines for reassessment. Be ready to review periodically throughout the campaign, and always re-evaluate the original plan and strategy. If you find that the results are not meeting the initial objectives, be flexible and adapt quickly.

Stage Three: Post-launch Reflections

The post-campaign stage is a time to reflect and think about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the advertising campaign in terms of delivery, media space, return on investment, customer engagement, and overall performance. Here it is important for media buyers to make the right conclusions. This way you will draw valuable insights for your future media planning startegy.

Analyze the Effectiveness of the Campaign

Collect as much data as possible, and review statistics and granular reports to see the strong and weak points of the campaign. Analyze the effectiveness of the media space and whether it generated revenues that were expected. Check how the audience interacted with the product, and assess consumer behavior. Evaluate the return on investment, and mark errors that have been made to avoid them in future advertising campaigns.

Collect Data, and Draw Insights

When you have all the data, it is time to make put it to use. In digital advertising, data is used to build algorithms that help optimize advertising campaigns and provide better targeting. Data is a marketer’s best friend, so look at it carefully. Aggregate data, and look for major and minor trends. Don’t look at singular points, especially when they change the direction. Search for relationships among variables or correlation and dependence patterns that help understand the logic. Finally, look at the data from different angles. Invite others to examine the data and discuss your impressions.

Opt for Digital Media

Media buying is much more than creating an appealing banner or buying ad space. A brand might design the most brilliant ad in the world, but it would be totally worthless if nobody sees it. And you don’t just need any old audience to see the ad; you need the people who are most likely to be interested — your target group — to see it.

"Creative without a strategy is called ‘art’. Creative with a strategy is called ‘advertising’".— Jef I. Richards

Successful advertising doesn't only depend on what is shown and how, but also on where it is displayed and to whom it is addressed. For this reason, media buying and media planning are incredibly important. The place where the ad appears determines the outcome of the entire advertising campaign and either brings the revenues to media buyers or leaves them penniless.

At the same time, media buying is rather time-consuming. Media buyers don't want to blow their entire budget on something that doesn’t bring results. Therefore, the success of the campaign depends vastly on the place of ad exposure. When buying media, be clear about your objectives, and choose the right channel for your marketing.

Today, more and more media buyers purchase media because they know that their consumers spend most of their time online. The internet is the place where your target audiences hang out. Programmatic advertising allows you to run highly targeted campaigns and reach audiences across platforms and channels at the right time. 

SmartyAds makes programmatic advertising easy for small- and medium-sized media-buyers, local and global media buyers, and brands and agencies.

Get started with effective media buying, register at SmartyAds DSP!

Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
February 2018