Media buying can be an overwhelming and confusing process to understand, especially if you are a first-time ad buyer, as simply creating ad campaigns does not guarantee brand success. Consumers are spoilt for choice as a result of strong competition, which means advertising must be strategically placed, preferably across multiple channels.

The average person spends 3 hours and 27 minutes each day on the Internet and yet because there are so many options available, they tend to have short periods of attention while browsing individual ads or pieces of content online. Hence, competing for a share of that attention can be particularly challenging for companies.

This is where media buying stands as an attractive and faster way to deliver the brand’s message to a broader audience. In this blog post, we answer six of the most common questions about the what, why, and how of media buying.

1. What is media buying?

Media Buying is the practice of purchasing a share of media space from traditional and digital channels for a limited period of time with the purpose of running advertising campaigns based on a targeted audience. This process involves tracking campaign performance and adjusting accordingly to improve effectiveness and, in the long run, achieve maximum exposure for the least amount of spend.

Ultimately, the main objective of media buying, both offline and digital, is to get a brand’s advertising creative in front of its target audience in the right formats, at the right times and under the right circumstances to make the campaign relevant and successful. Therefore, the cost of media buying varies depending on the platform on which the buyer wants to display their ads, the location, and size of the ad space, the exact times to show them, among other ad specifications.

2. Why is media buying important?

It is clear that one of the benefits of media buying is its impact on advertising campaign success, due to the strategic selection of platforms, placements and times for the ads to be displayed. However, effective media buying extends well beyond this, as it can also help to create strong connections with media channels, resulting in access to the best ad spaces with the largest reach and highest conversion rates to maximize ROI at the lowest cost.

Qualified media buyers are therefore in a better position to negotiate with media owners to ensure that advertisers achieve the best possible results for their marketing goals, which can lead to the following benefits:

  1. Targeting potential customers at the right time and place, allowing companies to obtain the best possible campaign results for their budget.
  2. Ensure ads are placed in the best possible locations, which enables the brand to stand out amongst its competitors.
  3. Receive “value-added” impressions at no extra cost to boost the campaign effectiveness, meaning a brand could get additional digital impressions than the number expected from its running ads.

3. What’s the difference between media buying and media planning?

Despite media buying and media planning being both part of the same category in terms of negotiating and purchasing ad inventory, they represent two distinct processes. While media buying is keen on acquiring the highest impressions from a targeted audience for the least amount of spend, media planning takes place earlier, as it is related to the establishment of the campaign strategy based on market research.

Media Planning

As mentioned above, media planning is the first step towards developing an effective media ad campaign since it defines a roadmap for media buyers when purchasing ad spaces. This research-based media planning process allows advertisers to determine the ideal target audience for their offering, including the main channels they use and when they use them, the type of messaging they are most likely to engage with, and how to use different media to maximize the brand’s return on investment (ROI).

Media Buying

In simple words, media buying is the process of bringing the media plan into action by purchasing the right combination of media to successfully achieve the campaign’s goals. It starts with media buyers contacting sales reps from the agreed media channels to negotiate placement, price, and timeframe of the advertising space.

4. What are the main types of media buying?

When it comes to executing media plans, media buyers typically use the following methods to acquire the advertising channels of choice:

Direct Buy

Buying inventory from a given channel or publisher without an intermediary to negotiate ad rates and run times for the campaign display on a single site.

Network Buy

Bidding and buying ad space via demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms. Ads are distributed across a network of sites to increase global impressions by using AI and algorithms to match consumer profiles.

Self-serve Ad Buy

Self-service means running programmatic media buying in-house. In this case, advertisers have everything they need to execute, manage and evaluate an ad campaign at their fingertips, which significantly reduces timelines and overall costs.

5. How does the media buying process work?

Defining a goal to be achieved is the first step in the media buying process. Increased page views, higher conversion rates and a broader connection with prospects and clients as they move through the phases of the customer journey are all possible outcomes. After deciding why and for what purpose media buying is needed, the next 5 steps take place:

  1. Media Planning: this is where the budget is set, the target audience is identified and the necessary KPIs for the media buying campaign are defined.
  2. Media Buying: in this stage, the ideal channels and placements for the ads to be shown are chosen, as well as the creatives that are most likely to match the audience and the campaign’s run timeframe.
  3. Media Placement: this is the main part of the media buying process, during which the negotiation with publishers or bidding for inventory by the chosen media buying software occurs.
  4. Data Collection: after purchasing the intended ad space, the media buying software collects publisher’s data to track the performance of the running campaigns.
  5. Data Analysis & Optimization: at this point, the brand’s media buying staff gather campaign reports and analyze the available data to optimize the performance of the ad sets throughout the whole campaign lifecycle.

6. What are the main media buying challenges?

Investing in experienced media buying teams and techniques, like every other aspect of marketing, involves adding value. To do so, media buying teams require analytical tools that allow them to link conversions and KPIs to a specific ad, as well as real-time access to campaign performance to instantly optimize ads. The following are often the most common challenges that businesses face during the media buying process:

Live Campaign Optimization

Media buyers face challenges when optimizing ads during a campaign. Most marketing results are not available until the campaign is over, which means it is too late to make changes to the campaign and allocation of ad spend. To overcome this challenge, media buying teams need access to campaign data in a centralized hub where they can analyze campaign performance and make adjustments quickly to ensure they are not wasting advertising dollars on ineffective campaigns.

Precise Measurements

When investing in media, it is key that media buyers have access to the results of active campaigns in real-time so that budgets can be optimized accordingly. Many businesses, however, battle to use an attribution model that effectively represents their whole media mix, making it difficult to tell when a specific ad placement has been successful for a specific conversion.

Brand Protection

When working with an external media buyer, it is essential that brands partner with a trusted, expert buyer that has strong relationships with outlets and publishers to successfully place, buy and adjust the ad spend so as to avoid the risk of ad fraud from placing ads on fraudulent sites. In the same way, it is also important to consider brand safety and work with the best positioned digital partners to ensure that brand protection is a priority.

Clear Contracts & Goals

Contract negotiations can be another challenge in media buying. To guarantee that specified goals are satisfied, media buyers must ensure that everything discussed is clearly laid out in the contract, as well as ensuring that the marketing mix and creatives are working together to get the highest return on advertising spend. This reduces the possibility of companies wasting their budgets on ads that will not provide the best results.


In today’s competitive business environment, it is crucial to create a comprehensive advertising budget strategy to get maximum value from ad spend in terms of conversions and impressions. Media buying is an effective approach for this purpose since it is designed to ensure that the target audience views the ad at the right time, regardless of the chosen channels. As a result, media buying campaigns can deliver qualified leads when executed as part of a well-designed strategy.

Overall, media buying is undeniably complex, with a lot of pressure focused on getting the best ad placement for a conversion-driven customer experience. However, media teams can optimize spend and strategy by staying on top of key media buying trends and negotiation tactics to maximize brand awareness.