What is Media Planning and Buying?

Thursday, Sep 15, 22 By Nartak Media

Media planning and buying agency strategy session

Trying to adapt to the ever-evolving advertising and marketing climate can be a challenge! Whether you are a media planning expert or someone just trying to understand how to navigate their company’s advertising, knowing the ins and outs of media planning and buying is crucial

To say that media planning and buying have changed significantly over the last 20 years due to technological advancements is an understatement. That takes us to the question, “What is media planning and buying today?”


What is media planning?

Media planning is the process of identifying, assessing, and selecting various media channels to reach a defined audience. A media planner works to determine how, where, and why a business will share media content. Through strategic media planning software and a deep understanding of media, media planners can develop efficient, successful advertising campaigns.

One of the biggest challenges of media planning is determining how to serve consumers with the right message, at the right time, on the right channel. Luckily 3 questions can help you to figure out these “rights”:

  1. What is your advertising strategy?
  2. Who do you want to reach?
  3. How do you want to communicate?

Some benefits of media planning include improved efficiency, saved resources, better budget tracking, improved ROI, and a better understanding of your audience.


What is media buying?

Before we talk about how media planning and buying go hand-in-hand, let’s define media buying. Media buying is the process of purchasing space and time on digital and online platforms to house advertising. These ads can be found anywhere on websites, radio, TV, YouTube, and more.

More specifically, a media buyer is responsible for negotiating with publishers for ad space, managing budgets, and optimizing ads so that they improve overall performance. Typically, media buying is done in 4 ways:

  1. Direct Buy
  2. Programmatic Buy
  3. Manual Bidding
  4. Real-time Bidding

Person buying something on computer

Media Planning vs. Media Buying

While media planning and buying often get lumped together in the same category, they each have distinct processes within advertising. Media buying typically focuses on purchasing ad space across various channels, while media planning focuses on the strategy behind the campaign. In short, media planning sets you up to buy while media buying does the actual purchasing.

Let’s take a look at the differing roles of media planners and buyers:

Media Planners

  • Conduct both internal and external market research:
    • Media planners need to conduct internal research to understand the client they are working with. Internal research includes things such as the client’s brand identity, positioning, and unique selling points. 
    • External research is important to understand the overall advertising landscape, competitors, target audience, and most effective media channels.
  • Set campaign goals:
    • Based on information gathered from research, media planners are tasked with setting goals for their advertising strategy.
  • Determine budget:
    • This is important for ensuring the profitability of a campaign. Media planners work to decide what percentage of the budget will be spent on advertising in each channel.

Media planners looking at data

Media Buyers

  • Leveraging relationships:
    • Media buyers must leverage trusted relationships within the industry to help them drive impressive ROIs.
  • Negotiating with vendors:
    • This task helps to bring down the price of media placement pricing to stretch the budget further and run cost-effective campaigns.
  • Tracking and tweaking active campaigns:
    • While media planners build the strategy, media buyers track their performance in real time. This allows media buyers to make quick adjustments when needed to help the media planners achieve campaign goals.

Media buyer on mobile phone

Challenges faced by media buyers

Media buying is essential, but it does come with its set of challenges. For instance, ad fraud is a big issue. This is when fake clicks or impressions are generated, and it can be quite costly. Then there are problems with ads not being properly visible and appearing in unsuitable places, which can harm a brand’s image. To overcome these challenges, it’s important to use reliable tools and proven media buying agencies to ensure ads are seen by real people and appear in the right places.

How to integrate media planning and buying into your overall marketing strategy

Integrating media planning and buying with the overall marketing strategy is crucial for consistent messaging and branding. This means every ad is in line with the brand’s values, goals, and the audience it wants to reach, creating a unified experience across all interactions. It’s about aligning media and marketing objectives to make sure the media strategy enhances the overall marketing approach. This unified approach helps brands send consistent, resonant messages, building stronger brand recall and loyalty. It also allows for a more thorough analysis of campaign performance, enabling effective strategy optimization across different channels and touchpoints.

Market trends

The trends in media planning and buying are constantly changing. One trend is the rise of programmatic advertising, which allows for automated ad buying focusing on reaching specific audiences. It’s efficient and precise, helping advertisers connect with their audiences more effectively. Another trend is the growing importance of mobile advertising, with advertisers using mobile platforms to deliver more personalized and relevant ads. There’s also a focus on personalized and contextual advertising to provide more engaging content to consumers. Staying updated with these trends and adapting strategies accordingly is essential for advertisers to stay competitive.