What is Media Buying and Why Should You Care?

Media Buying – Introduction

business chartIf you’ve ever heard the term Media Buying before or heard talk about it lately and how well-paid Media Buyers are and wanted to learn more about this art shrouded in mystery, then this is the article for you.

By the end of this article you’ll know precisely what media buying, or programmatic buying,  is and what it involves.  If you’re interesting in pursuing it more I’ll even include a couple of links to places that teach you the practical side of actually going media buying.

Media buying is like any other skill.  You need to practice it.  You need to have a plan.  You need to learn from experts like any other profession.

Media buyers are well-paid, earning sometimes 6-figures so it’s definitely a great skill to have.

This article has some length so here are some shortcut links to jump around if you’d like:

What is Media Buying?

The media buying process is negotating and purchasing advertising time and space to put forth a marketing message.

Media buyers have to consider formats, rates, demographic data, and psychological data.  For instance, are they attracting potential buyers or just window shoppers.

They have also to consider things like optimal advertising budget, media type ( TV, radio, internet, print, etc), and target audience for starts.

Sounds fancy, but in a nutshell it’s the person calling TV stations or talking to internet sites to put their ads up on their for the cheapest price that matches the target audience.  Ideally they are attempting to target as most efficiently as possible potential buyers, although just regular window-shopping foot traffic may work if the price is cheap enough.

Media buying are advertising people buying those little ads when you’re searching for something like shoes

google ads

Basically every advertisement you see, especially online, is part of someone’s media buying plan.

Media buying is taking a commercial, or newspaper ad, or other sales message and getting it viewed by the intended audience. For example, an advertisement for Centrum Silver(vitamins for senior citizens) would not do well in Teen Beat magazine (a magazine for teens). A media buyer links the ad to the intended audience in order to make the ad effective. These ads are intended to sell a product and may be published on TV, online, newspapers or magazines. The media buyer negotiates price and placement of the ad for the advertisers.”

What is the Media Buying Process?

Media buying follows a basic 3-step process, the same generic process that applies to many things.  These are the pre-launch, the launch itself, and the post-launch.  Let’s look at those more now.

Media Buying Process - 3 Stages


The pre-launch is where all of the preparation work is done.  All of the research, all of the strategy, and all of the decisions go in here.

Start With Your Goal

The very first step you want to do is to define what you want your advertising plan to accomplish.

Are you trying to attract new customers or get previous customers to come back?

Are you trying to sell a new product?

The best way to look at this is a defined increase in customers or sales in a given time period.  20% more average daily sales in 90 days is a very tangible (and possibly agressive) goal to achieve.

Remember that you are going to look back at this goal in the post-launch data analysis to see if you achieved your goal.

Define Your budget

BudgetHow much do you want to spend?  Ideally you have a set amount for the entire campaign that you are willing to spend and it’s best not to count on getting huge amounts of sales to justify the cost of the advertising.

If you haven’t done this before, chances are it won’t be as efficient as possible for the Return on Investment (ROI).

Once you figure out how much for the campaign, now you can break it down by the number of days to get your daily budget as well as weekly and monthly.

Make sure you count all aspects of your campaign across all of the medium.  You may be running print ads or such.

The important thing is to give yourself a little wiggle room.  When you’re running online advertising with AdWords or Facebook ads for instance, sometimes by the time they throttle it, the daily budget spend will go a little over your cap.

What I’m saying is, put some extra money in the budget to deal with unexpected expenses.

Define Your Target Audience

If you are already selling a product online, you should already know your target demographic.  If not, it might be a little tough.

Here are some ways to brainstorm what target demographic you are looking for:

  • Look at your current customer base
  • Checkout the demographic of your competitors.
  • What gender are you primarily selling your product to?
  • What age range would use your product?
  • What income level would you see buying your product?

Reading this article on Forbes or identify your target audience may help jog your thinking.

Define Your Target Product

You may have lots of products and I’m sure you’d like to sell more of all of them.  But what is your flagship product for instance?  That might be one you want to feature in the advertising.

When you see a Target store ad on TV, do they feature all of the products in the store?  Nope, they pick a few, and those are their target products.

Having that level of focus will give your media buying a larger chance of success.

Research Your Competitors

This is a great time to check out your competitors and what their media buying strategy is.  Find out as much information as you can.  What is their target product?  What is their target demographic?  What medium (digital, print, posters) are they utilizing and is it working?

Learn from their mistakes and success.

Build An Advertising Plan

Now is the time when you put all of it together.  The three basic questions are what, when, and where.

You need to know what ads you are going to run, when you are going to run them, and where are they being run.

The what part is your target product and demographic.

The when part is the timeframe of your media buying strategy.  Is it 90 days? 180 days?

The where part is what medium.  Is it going to run on TV? Is it going to run Facebook?

All of these go together to create your consolidated media plan that you will now follow through when you launch your advertising.

Launch Your Advertising

Once you know those things, you now have your plan and it’s time to put it into action!  Success will only happen if you follow through.

Ideally all of your mediums you are using for your campaign are consistent for maximum effect.

Campaign Launch

Now that all of those crucial decisions were made, the advertising campaign is off and running!  This is the really exciting step where your media planning goes into action.

The key here is to monitor many different things to be sure the campaign is progressing as expected and if not it may have to be adjusted

Ensure Ad Delivery

You need to make sure everything is going to plan.  This means for TV that your commercial is airing as you paid.  For digital advertising, it means that your ad is showing as you expected to.

For digital advertising it can be a bit more tricky.  For instance, on Adwords and Facebook ads you have to bid for adspace.

Here’s the thing you have to watch for.  Let’s say you projected a CPA (Cost Per Action) of $0.50 and $50 for the day.  So your expectation was 100 clicks to your site for a given day.  But today you have it running at 50 cents and you’re being outbid so you’re not getting any clicks.  You decide to raise your CPA to $1.00.  Now you’re getting the clicks, but only 50 for the day now.

That’s where the digital takes a bit more work to follow but sometimes until it gets going you can’t predict things.  Perhaps you raise your bids.  Perhaps you don’t worry about it and just run with less clicks some days but it may run for an extra 10 days.  This is the type of thing where you do analysis on the fly.

Real time bidding can be a little nerve wracking but you really can keep an eye on things and the better you get, the more you can take advantage to changing trends quickly.

Ensure Target Audience

Perhaps no matter what you do, your ad is showing, but you’re just not getting clicks.  It might be your ad just isn’t effective and you might have to call the bullpen and bring in another ad.

You need to track the impressions and CTR (Click Through Rate) for your ad to see if it’s truly effective.  It just might be you’re not getting the impressions you expect so perhaps you need to alter your target demographic a little.

Intermediary Rough Analysis

With digital media buying campaigns, you need to think on your feet a bit.  You need to constantly re-evaluate if your advertising strategy is matching your current results and if not what you can do to bring it back on track.

Sometimes it’s much easier said than done.  This is where you’ll build expertise over time.

Make sure to keep an eye on the news, trends, competitors results, and everything in between.  Sometimes it’s not your strategy that was wrong but that the circumstances have changed.  In any case keep an eye on things and make a change if need be.


After the advertising campaign run is over, it’s time to analyze all of the data and evaluate if it successfully met the goal set in the Pre-Launch step.

Collect All the Data

Collect as much data as you can.  Get data from your advertising medium, your own site logs, Google analytics, anywhere you can get data.

You need to crunch it so when you analyze the good and bad you can tell exactly what was right or wrong.

Did a midstream change fix it and put it back on track and it was good from that point?

Did the cost go higher than expected?

Did you not sell enough of your product as expected?

Analyze the Data

This is a great time to make charts and brainstorm with others about where things could have done better as well as exactly what you could have done better so for next time it’s a bigger success.

What types of Media Buying are there?

The 3-step Media Buying Process applies to all types of advertising campaigns.  I’m sure you already know about digital  media buying (ads on websites) but there are so many more.

What are they? Glad you asked.

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Billboards along highways
  • Posters in malls
  • Email Marketing
  • Mobile Advertising
  • Digital media buying – Ads on websites

Basically there is advertising around you everywhere all the time.  At this point you might be good at ignoring them on websites or not thought much about it in your daily life but once you get involved in media advertising, you’ll notice ads are going on all around you.

Those commercials when you’re watching your favorite show .. That is an ad right there.  Your TV provider is getting paid to show those commercials which is helping to pay the cost of getting those shows.  So in reality the commercials are paying for the show.  Those are TV ads.

The posters you see up when you walk in Kohls or even the posters outside the movie theater.  Those are advertising too.  Those are print ads.

As you can see, advertising is huge but there’s always plenty of room for those with talent and ambition.

Where can you buy media ads?

If you have the money, buying media ads where you want is easy.  Remember in the pre-launch step, do your research.  Otherwise you could burn through money fast and not get the desired result which is to make more from your product than you paid for advertising.


This one is easy.  Let’s use Verizon as an example.  There is a Verizon “Advertise with us” page where they give you an email to initiate contact to talk about putting your commercial on Verizon.  All you have to do is make contact but make sure you have at least defined your goal, budget, and target audience before making contact.

Or even more obvious, Super Bowl ads.  According to Business Inside, a 30-second Super Bowl Commercial cost at least $5 million.  You can see why only the big companies even have commercials during the game and you won’t see a small business taking a financial leap on the high-priced spots..


These are a little easier.  You can usually just contact radio stations since commercials are a usual business.

One thing first though.  Make sure you know your target audience and ask the radio station first thing for their audience demographic to see if they match or not.  If they don’t match at all, then you’ll need to keep looking for another radio station.


Same thing as Radio.  Just contact your local newspaper and ask since this type of print advertising is a lot of their revenue comes from.

Billboards and Posters

Frequently you’ll billboards with a phone number you can call if you want to purchase it for advertising.  For posters you can see the number on things such as bus stops and such if you want to get your poster in front of people.

Email marketing

This is one of those media sources that isn’t as obvious.  Many websites and such will send out sponsored emails with your advertisement in it for a fee usually based on the number of subscribers.  Perhaps you can even reach a deal where they get 25% of the sales as their fee so if it doesn’t produce sales it doesn’t actually cost you anything.  This is actually getting pretty close to how affiliate marketing works.

Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising are ads that appear on smart phones, tables, and other small devices.  These ads can be displayed via websites, social media, or even those in-app ads that I’m sure you’ve seen.4

Mobile devices outnumber TVs 3-to-1 and it’s estimated that people spend 40% of their internet time right on their phones.

Even if you can’t do mobile advertising now, keep an eye on it as it’s only getting bigger.

Digital Media Buying

This is a big one.  This is the online side of things which is very busy and has amazing amounts of data to look at for the post-launch analysis.  If you are a small business, then this is likely the most cost-efficient media buying.

Digital buying is usually a mix of websites and a mix of social media advertising.

Google Adwords is a good example of website advertising.

Facebook Ads is a good example of social media advertising.

There are many players in the digital advertising game.

And that’s just the start.

I’m sure you’ve seen these ads, although they are designed to blend it fairly well.

Here is an example of Google Adwords showing sponsored results.

Google Adwords example

Look familiar? Yep, that was part of many people’s media buying plan on AdWords.

How do I become an expert media buyer?

Adtrics Academy

As you can imagine, starting to learn media buying is a multi-tiered effort.

Anybody can just buy ads, but it will take and effort to learn to become good at it.  Much like how you learned to walk as a toddler.

There are other ways however.  Much like college, there are online curriculum courses to learn how to do it the right way and it’s usually far cheaper to learn this way than the School of Hard Knocks.

The Adtrics Academy program is one such course.  Fred Lam is one of the gurus of media buyers and he has courses where you learn digital media buying, print ad buying, etc.  All of the mediums.

After you learn all of that, you then work with him for 8 weeks where you can ask questions and you come out of it as a Certified Media Buyer and fully capable of pulling down a 6-figure salary.  He himself even hires some of the graduates.  Buying media and become an expert it can be easy with the right teacher.

Even if you’re sure if you’re ready to put in the full effort, I encourage you at least read up on my Adtrics review and if you hurry you can even get a copy of a free course he is giving away!


In summary the media buying process is a 3-stage process of pre-launch preparation (most of the effort) followed by launch and then post-launch data analysis.  You can buy media across websites, newspaper, TV, Radio, you name it.  Anywhere there are commercials there are people buying advertising space so media buying is right there.

You can try it yourself on Facebook ads or Google Adwords.  You can sign up for Fred Lam’s Adtrics Academy course to become a recognized expert.  You can research ads right now to become more familiar.

Whatever way you are looking to do, just remember media buying is only going to become bigger and bigger.