A complete guide to media buying

Media buying is a key piece of any marketing strategy, because the media buy helps ads reach the right audiences. This guide answers the questions: What is media buying and what is programmatic media buying? This guide will also explore why media buys are so important, the difference between buying and planning, and how Amazon Advertising can help advertisers in the process.

What is media buying?

Media buying is an important step in the advertising process. It involves securing ideal locations, placements, and times to run ads to maximize their effectiveness with specific audiences. The goal is to purchase placements on channels that are most relevant to a brand’s audience at a time when the largest portion of the audience may see the ad, to achieve the lowest cost per action. Media buying includes purchasing traditional media, such as television, radio, print, and outdoor, as well as digital channels, including websites, social media, streaming services, and apps.

Media buyers typically perform the media buying; they seek to match the context of the ad with the medium. For example, a media buyer may secure placement for a face cream ad alongside an article about the top ten best ingredients in face creams on a beauty website, or the Beauty and Personal Care channel on Amazon. Executed correctly, media buys can help brands achieve optimum reach among key audiences by helping to educate customers, making it easier for them to discover new products or brands.

Media buyers work in concert with media planners who create the media plan, which outlines the goals and objectives of the campaign. Media buyers also may also handle negotiation with media outlets or advertising channels to secure placements at a desired time and frequency, adhering to the campaign budget parameters.

Why is media buying important?

Media buying is important because strategically purchased media can impact a campaign’s success. It’s not enough to have compelling copy and visuals—ads must be placed in the right locations and at the right times and frequencies, so that the right audiences see the ad. Media buyers can purchase ads across a mix of media, with traditional and digital media working together—such as radio and digital advertising, or television and Amazon display advertising running in tandem to help drive the best results.

Experienced media buyers may also successfully negotiate with media outlets or channels to ensure that advertisers maximize performance against campaign goals. By doing this well, media buyers can:

  1. Achieve the best possible results for their budget, driving the most impressions, or views of an ad, at a lower cost.
  2. Secure ideal ad placements.
  3. Receive “value added” impressions, included with no extra cost, to make a campaign more successful. For example, a brand could receive a certain number of digital impressions on top of expected impressions from TV ads.

The difference between media buying and media planning

Marketers sometimes use the terms media buying and media planning interchangeably. They work together, but are different pieces of the advertising puzzle.

Media planning

Media planning is the precursor to media buying—it’s the roadmap that media buyers follow when they negotiate and purchase ads. Media planning is the research-based, strategic process advertisers go through before buying and launching ads, in order to gauge effectiveness and maximize return on investment (ROI).

A media plan includes:

  • Campaign goals and objectives: Common goals include brand awareness, consideration, conversion, or loyalty
  • Marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs): These are dependent on your goals and objectives. Some KPI examples include impressions, store visits, app installs, ad engagement, video views, email list sign-ups, web site visits, sales, repeat purchases, and more
  • Audience: Details about whom the campaign should reach
  • Budget: The maximum spend for the campaign
  • Research or relevant market insights: This will inform audience selection, messages, and media mix
  • Media mix: The ideal combination of media types that will best reach key audiences and be the most cost effective
  • Timeline: Including time to write, design, and produce creative
  • Measurement tools: How and where you’ll monitor campaign progress
  • Creative specifications

Media buying

Without proper media planning, there is no guide for media buyers to follow, which may result in an ineffective media buy. Media buying is putting the media plan into action, focusing on buying the right mix of media to deliver on the campaign goals effectively.

There are several ways to purchase media:

  • Direct: Purchasing ads directly with a specific channel or publisher
  • Network: Bidding and purchasing ad space through demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms
  • Programmatic: Using technology to buy and sell digital ads

The media buying process

There are several critical steps to the media buying process:

1. Determining what percentage of the total budget will be spent on guaranteed inventory versus non-guaranteed inventory—when a specific amount of inventory is purchased versus when an unspecified amount of inventory is purchased—usually at a discounted rate.

2. Sending requests for proposals (RFPs) to media outlets, when applicable, then evaluating which mix offers the potential to maximize campaign performance.

3. Finalizing the order by creating an insertion order (IO).

4. Trafficking the creative to the selected media outlets, and sizing each ad appropriately for its placement.

5. Launching the campaign, and ensuring metrics are in place to measure results.

6. Monitoring metrics from media outlets or channels, as well as internal insights, to gauge success, making tweaks as necessary, and monitoring the campaign overall against key performance indicators (KPIs)s.

7. Reconciling spend against the budget detailed in the media plan.

8. Reconciling costs and negotiating “make goods” for any under-delivering ads.

Four factors to consider when buying media

There are four key factors to consider when buying media or negotiating media buys.

Protect your brand

1. Protect your brand

When working with an outside media buyer, it’s important for brands to partner with a skilled and trustworthy buyer who has solid relationships with outlets and publishers to successfully place, buy, and reconcile the ad spend. In addition, it’s important to keep the safety of the brand top of mind and work with digital partners best positioned to ensure that brand safety is prioritized.

Optimize your media buying

2. Optimize your media buying

Optimization is a way to adjust frequency and bids to maximize performance, as well as block select domains. One of the many benefits of programmatic ad buying is by default, programmatic ad buying runs optimization for you. It’s simply a matter of ensuring the programmatic campaign is set up with the correct parameters.

Aim for cohesion

3. Aim for cohesion

Ensure your marketing mix and creatives work together, not against each other, for the best return on your advertising investment. Tell a complete story across your entire media mix versus disconnected messages and creatives.

Prioritize measurement

4. Prioritize measurement

Understanding which campaigns and creatives are driving the best results at the lowest cost is important for optimizing the campaign overall. One of the benefits of digital media is the ability to measure and fine-tune campaigns while they’re in flight versus waiting for them to finish to digest results.

Media buying trends

Over the decades, media buying has grown from traditional media buying, where buyers might purchase a single print ad in Ladies’ Home Journal, to the emergence of a vast world of machine learning to analyze audience signals, using insights from social media and other online content to help brands best understand how their customers discover their products and services.

Programmatic display advertising uses technology to reach audiences that a brand wants to connect with. Based on their media partners, advertisers can tailor ads to audiences informed by various behaviorial and lifestyle signals. This includes using insights to reach the right audiences and customize messages to adapt to analytics in real time, plus innovative approaches like connected home strategies to reach audiences where they are.

Another key trend is social media buying, whereby media buyers incorporate social media sites, such as Twitch, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter into their media mix. Paid social advertising can often benefit brands more than simple organic posting.

Finally, the rise in demand-side platforms (DSPs) is another key trend in media buying. Working with a DSP that has an extensive reach, excellent customer support, and sophisticated insights, analysis, and measurement tools can go a long way toward an effective media buying process.

Programmatic media buying and real-time bidding

Programmatic advertising is particularly attractive to advertisers because of the ability to focus on key audience segments. Programmatic advertising uses workflow automation and machine learning algorithms to deliver the most effective ads to audiences based on a variety of signals, like demographics, shopping patterns, and more.

Programmatic buying lets advertisers purchase programmatic display ads directly or through auction. With programmatic buying , advertisers work with demand-side platforms like Amazon DSP to purchase ads at a fixed price. DSPs facilitate the process of buying ad inventory, and help advertisers discover and reach relevant audiences.

Real-time bidding (RTB) is a way to buy ads programmatically. With RTB, advertisers can participate in an auction when an impression becomes available. If their bid wins the auction, their ad is displayed instantly on the publisher’s site. RTB is not only efficient, but it helps advertisers to focus on the most relevant inventory.

How to choose a DSP

Consider these elements when evaluating DSPs.

Analyze the inventory

If you are a global company, make sure that the DSPs you’re considering offer strength in inventory in the regions you are looking to advertise. Ad inventory is more than reach—most important is the quality of the inventory, and if it’s unique and comprehensive. Inquire about the traffic sources and the ad inventory’s reputation .

Understand the approach to brand safety

Evaluate the importance of brand safety and quality standards for any particular DSP to ensure your brand shows up in brand-safe environments.

Confirm customer support details

When it comes to real-time programmatic ad buying, every second counts. How often does the DSP get updated? What is the service level agreement in terms of response to technical support? Do they offer a managed service option? The managed service option may be useful for large advertisers, or advertisers just getting started.

Evaluate the audiences and how you can reach them

Can you reach audiences to which you are most relevant? How sophisticated are the insights? What data parameters can you use? Test your advertising placements using your brand’s audience behaviors and lifestyles.

Amazon DSP for programmatic media buying

Amazon DSP is a demand-side platform that enables advertisers to programmatically buy display, video ads, and audio ads both on and off Amazon sites and apps. It is available to advertisers who sell on Amazon and those who don’t. Brands can reach new and engaged audiences through high-quality, brand-safe inventory that includes Amazon-owned sites, such as IMDb or Twitch, and leading publishers’ sites. Amazon DSP also provides reporting during and after campaigns at no additional cost to advertisers.

Amazon DSP can be used to support various marketing goals and offers flexibility in how much or how little advertisers would like to control their campaigns. They can take a hands-on approach, creating their own ads and staying in full control of the buying process. Or they can make use of Amazon Advertising creative templates or video creative builder, plus opt for managed service.

Media buying is important for any advertising campaign because it has a direct impact on advertising ROI. Contact an Amazon Advertising account executive to learn more about how services like Amazon DSP can help optimize your media buying process and plan strategic and effective campaigns.