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Media Planning and Buying 101

What is media planning and buying?

I’ve been asked that question more times than I care to count during the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe media planning and buying is by saying, “It’s discovering where the people you want to target will be and then buying space or time.” Sounds simple, right?

Let me break it down a little further.

In media planning, you locate the intended audience by studying habits, demographics, and other characteristics.

Don’t worry, there are resource guides to help you find all this information. Examples include Comscore, SRDS, Nielsen, Quantcast and many more. All those tools analyze behaviors that range from TV viewership to social media preferences, app downloads, and even favorite restaurants. So if you want to find women ages 25-54 who eat healthy, you would know where to find this audience, whether it was nationally, regionally or locally.

Media buying is where you purchase the space or time to reach your target audience.

It could be on the tops of cabs, sides of buses, or on TV or radio. The ad space or time slot allows you to reach people at optimum times, such as between 6 and 7 in the morning or Tuesday thru Thursday, if you are buying ad space on broadcast or the internet. Maybe there’s a new restaurant or theater you want to promote, so you might consider advertising on a bus, billboard, or some other place outside of the home. Your vendor will tell you how many people you reached and how many times you reached them.

When media planning and buying work together, you find the right media mix that best hits your target audience.

Once you’ve found the perfect space or time to purchase, you’ll want to complement the media with the right creative element. You can buy media all day long, but if the creative isn’t good and geared towards your target audience, no one will care.

For example, advertising Louboutin in Sports Illustrated makes no sense. But if you are marketing Nikes, that’s a different story. The opposite applies as well: You can have the best creative imaginable … but if no one sees it, what was the point in creating it!?

Advertising campaigns often overlook media buying and planning, just like Star Wars viewers might under appreciate Chewbacca. The loyal Wookie was an asset no matter what the circumstances … just like media planning and buying is integral to any advertising campaign. 

Even if you aren’t sure you completely understand media planning and buying, you can at least appreciate how it works!

Guest blogger, Kelly Dobyns Ziegler, has been buying media for over 20 years. She has worked in small, medium and large agencies in the Kansas City area. In 2021, Kelly started her own solopreneur career at Numerical Tree. She started her company on the principal that understanding and utilizing data is the smartest way to grow any business. Find out what works and build on it. When data leads, growth ultimately follows.