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9 Steps to Implement Media Buying Process and Get More Reach for Your Brand

Feb 23, 2021  ·  9 min read
Lucy Manole
Lucy Manole, Creative writer & strategist, Marketing Digest

In this day and age, simply making ads does not guarantee a successful brand. Competition is rife and consumers are spoiled. That is why ads have to be placed strategically — at the right time, in front of the right audience. That is where the concept “media buying” enters the marketing mix.

Consumers, on average, spend 3 hours and 27 minutes a day online. However, given the millions of options out there, they tend to have low attention spans when browsing individual ads or pieces of content on the internet.

Competing to get a slice of that attention can be extremely hard for businesses, and sometimes organic promotion is not enough. Media buying is a quicker way of getting the brand message across to the right audience by placing it in channels with a broad reach.

Whether you are a novice that knows nothing about media buying or a business that wants to sharpen its skills in this department, this guide will help you get your media buying strategy on the right track. Here we will take 9 essential steps toward a complete understanding of the media buying process, software, and better campaign optimization.


Step #1 — What is Media Buying: Definition

Essentially, media buying involves purchasing a share of offline or digital media space and time to run advertisements and then monitoring how the ad is doing and making adjustments as needed to optimize the ad's performance. This involves judicious strategizing and negotiating to make the most of the brand's ad budget.

Objectives of Media Buying

The main objective of both offline and digital media buying is to get a brand's ad creatives out before its target audiences in the right ad formats, at the right times, and in the proper contexts to have a successful campaign.

How this success is measured will depend on the brand's goals, which could be to:

  • Increase conversion rates, for which retargeting ads can work well;
  • Improve brand awareness, if this can't be achieved by search engine optimization or as an additional acquisition channel.
  • Get sign-ups for an event or product launch, for which pay-per-click ads on social media can work well.

Media buying is a lot like investing in real estate — you hire any of the suitable media buying companies to negotiate for the best deals on newspapers, radio channels, television networks, magazines, social media space, and other types of media “real estate”, or you do it on your own — if you are confident — with your own ad tech stack for in-house media buying.

Step #2 — The Process of Media Buying

The media buying process starts from defining a goal that you want to achieve with it. This can be more page views, better conversion rates, and, as the result, more closed leads. Once you know why and for what you may need media buying, you go through the following stages:

  1. Media buying strategy. Here you allocate the budget, define your target audience, set the desired metrics you want to achieve with your media buying campaign.
  2. Media planning. That's time to choose the channels for ad placement, pick the right creatives, and agree on the campaign deployment schedule.
  3. Media placement. This is the central sub-process of media buying, during which you negotiate with publishers or let your media buying software bid on the inventory.
  4. Data collection. Your software collects publisher's data and tracks the performance of each media buying campaign.
  5. Data analysis. Your media buying team access campaign reports and analyze the data retrieved, making further decisions based on this information.
  6. Optimization. You apply auto optimization algorithms based on your goals, or manually optimize each media buying setup.

media buying process - six stages

All these stages repeat all over again, when you adjust your media buying strategy to other goals or just expand the pool of creatives you include in your campaigns.

Step #3 — What is a Media Buyer in Marketing?

Media buyers work with inputs on audience preferences and marketing goals given to them by the media planning team to supervise the media buying process.

They negotiate with the networks, WCAG-compliant websites, print channels, and other spaces they want the ad to appear in and ensure that they obtain the best placements within the best timelines for each ad while adhering strictly to a budget.

Media buyers also keep track of each ad's performance metrics to make sure that it is meeting the campaign goals and that it is being delivered correctly.

Step #4 — What Are The Types of Media Buying?

There are different ad channels that you can opt for, each of which has its own best practices. This section aims to throw light on them all:

Direct vs. Programmatic Media Buying

In direct media buying, ad buyers and publishers buy and sell digital ads by interacting with each other — just as it is done on radio, TV, or print advertising. They negotiate inventory and pricing with publishers directly for guaranteeing ad placements in their ad server.

What is programmatic media buying, you ask? It uses automated algorithms to optimize media buys on platforms called demand-side platforms and focuses on the ad ad relevance to the audience rather than on where media should be placed.

programmatic spread across channels

It is somewhat like a silent auction, where the brand specifies the target audience, provides a budget for cost per click, and lets AI take over.

In programmatic media buying, ad buyers and publishers buy and sell digital ads using automation and this is done through demand-side platforms. Publishers, from their site, use a supply-side platform to list their ads on the ad exchanges. This is how the programmatic media buying process occurs:

programmatic media buying process

Ad buyers can access reporting, edit data in real-time, and tweak campaigns without any direct interaction with the publisher.

Full-Service vs. Self-Serve Media Buying

As the name suggests, managed service means the media buying campaign is fully managed by a third-party agency that helps launch it. It is obvious managed service leads to decreased transparency, control over money, and efficiencies.

On the other hand, self-serve means having to execute the programmatic media buying in-house. In such a scenario, the advertiser is within arm's reach of everyone and everything they need to run and assess a campaign — thereby reducing turnaround times and overhead expenses considerably.

Offline Media Buying Options

TV ad placement

This typically involves face-to-face meetings where networks pitch to brands about the benefits of advertising on their channels. It is essential here to make sure that your ads do not get bumped from the time you have agreed upon — which often happens during a political campaign in favor of candidate ads.

Radio placement

This is a great way to connect with local buyers, but be sure to get a slot either at the start or at the end of the commercial break, as most listeners tune out during the bulk of the break.

Out-of-home ads

These are a great way to reach people as they go about their daily lives, such as through billboards along roads and highways.

Step #5 — What is the Difference Between Media Planning and Buying?

Media buyers and media planners work closely together, but their roles are entirely different. In a nutshell, media planners develop the initial strategy, and then media buyers place the ads in the most suitable channels based on that strategy.

What is Media Planning?

Media planners conduct market research to understand the target audience better to set marketing goals and fix a budget. The research includes finding out about:

  • What kind of content they like best (blogs, videos, etc.)
  • Which channels they use to browse content (social media, search engines, etc.)
  • When they engage with those channels

Accordingly, they choose the right channels for each ad as well as the amount to be spent on each ad/channel.

How Media Buying is Different from That?

Media buyers use the media planners' information to connect with sales executives at the relevant channels and negotiate about placement, price, and timeframe.

Some of the tactics they use to accomplish this include PPC campaign launch ad platforms such as AdWords, programmatic media buys to find the right ad space for the right consumer profile, and direct buys with specific advertisers.

Media Buying vs. Media Planning: Comparison Table

Differences Between Media Planning and Buying
Media Planning Media Buying
Prepare and present the recommended plan after conducting thorough market research Focus on developing long-term relationships with stakeholders
Translate the plan into a buying brief Negotiate about placement, price, and timeframe
Focuses on consumer behavior and industry trends Execute the media buying campaign
Influences consumers in the marketplace Assess and tweak it from time-to-time for optimal results

Step #6 — Why Media Buying is Important for Brands?

Media buying is much more than just paying money to get ad space. Effective media buying entails forging strong, meaningful relationships with media channels to obtain the best media slots with the broadest reach, increase conversions and thus maximize ROI.

Here are some of the benefits of executing a media buying strategy, preferably hiring a team of in-house media buying combined with media buying software:

Access to the Best Inventory Slots

Media buyers know which channels and slots get the best engagement and stay in touch with how external events like festivals or sports seasons might affect ad placement and cost. They can thus spend your ad budget optimally.

white-label DSP cuts middlemen

Working with white-label ad tech software to buy inventory slots, you also become a rightful owner of the platform. Thus, your media buyers can access placements of any direct publishers via an ad server or connect custom supply platforms instead of pre-defined traffic sources. This also helps avoiding middlemen such as ad networks and ad exchanges and cut bid markups by 10-30%.

Hassle-free Negotiation of Good Deals

Media buyers are well-versed in the art of negotiation and have extensive networks of contacts across the media space. Thus, they can get better exposure for brand ads at lower costs in case of working with the publishers directly.

In programmatic media buying, the success of your deal depends more on optimization. Programmatic platforms like Epom DSP feature algorithms like bidding autopilot (in other platforms it can be called otherwise), which allows you to set bidding rules and multipliers for a particular campaign.

These algorithms automatically adjust bids to increase win rates, blacklist underperforming sources, smarly adapt the bidding strategy according to received metrics, and therefore decrease your ad spend per each conversion in the long run.

Better Reach, Brand Awareness, and Quality Leads

If implemented right, media buying campaigns may bring you leads of your dream. Granular targeting with the ability to use custom parameters based on audience data coming from publishers (present in advanced ad servers and demand-side platforms) allows you to fine-tune your buyer persona profile as precisely as possible.

Programmatic media buying also means unlimited supply, especially if you use a white-label DSP, where custom traffic sources setup is possible. Real-time analytics also contribute to better understanding of the quality of your conversions.

Step #7 — How to Build an Effective Media Buying Strategy

Although media buying may sound complicated, it is not. It offers an excellent opportunity for brands to be inventive, tactical, and dynamic in many ways. If you are thinking of taking this route, here is how you can get started:

Ask Yourself the Right Questions

As a brand, you need to clarify your long-term and short-term goals. Do you want to sell more, or are you looking to boost brand awareness? Brainstorm with your team and take the time out to understand what exactly you need from media buying.

Understand the Media Buying Software

It is essential for you, as a brand, to have at least a basic understanding of the technology that powers your ad placements. For instance, use of the ad tags — a piece of code inserted within the webpage for sending a request to the ad server to show an ad at an assigned place, or the concept of header bidding.

The first step is typically the choice of demand-side platform, and this is where the marketing objectives you have established above will help you pick the right one. Whatever the case — your media buying partner should be willing to answer any questions you have.

Our research showed: people who check out our blog and help center, learn both a DSP and ad server much faster and make fewer mistakes while launching their first campaign.

Use Robust Technology Stack

The choice of only one media buying platform is not always the choice to make. You might be wanting to master both direct and programmatic media buying, for which you might need to use both ad server and DSP (we will talk about these a bit later). Moreover, you will use Google, Facebook, and other platforms to run ads on social media. You might also be willing to strengthen your strategy with dynamic creative optimization or attribution platforms.

Not just conversion value and data is the must for the success of your advertising business. The way you treat your customers is on this decade's agenda, and for that, you might want to use a strong customer relationship management system on top of platforms for media buying.

Focus on Your Creatives

No matter what media buying platform you use, your ad creatives need to be of top-notch quality and deliver the right message at the right time to the right people.

Be sure to work with your creative team to put out the best material possible and tweak it as needed depending on the contextual, environmental, and audience signals you get.

Step #8 — Which Software Tools to Use for Media Buying?

Media buying teams and brands that brought advertising in-house typically have an array of powerful and sophisticated media buying software at their disposal to help optimize channel selection and budget allocation.

Ad Server for Direct Media Buying

An ad server is an advertising platform, hosted on a server that manages online ad campaigns. It is primarily used by publishers, agencies, ad networks, and advertisers. The software defines which ads to display, when and on which medium (website or mobile app).

You can define targeting options beforehand without discussing the same with numerous partners for the perfect match.Advanced ad servers enables you to launch and manage massive and deeply-targeted advertising campaigns on mobile and display.

DSP for Programmatic Media Buying

A demand-side platform is another piece of software used in programmatic media buying where publishers and advertisers do not negotiate prices; instead, participate in real-time bidding auctions. It automates the process and requires minimum human intervention for securing an ad placement.

Step #9 — Media Buying Optimization Tips

Optimizing your media buying strategy is especially important if you are new to it. Despite large budgets dedicated to this activity, you may still want to effectively use all resources, measure your investment outcomes, and keep tweaking the strategy. Here is how you can get cracking:

Take it slow

When you are starting, do not try to be everywhere at once. Pick the right channels that will offer the most returns for your budget and your industry niche.

Improve your media buying knowledge

Do not just blindly rely on your media buying partner. Keep educating yourself by reading up online and talking to industry experts to know how the process works.

Be patient

Returns may not come immediately from your ad investments, and that is perfectly normal. You need to have faith and resist the temptation to take down or alter your ads directly.

Optimize your banners

Be sure to A/B test different banner designs before the campaign launch so that you know you have the best one.

Do not mix different traffic types

Each traffic type involves different bids, requires different kinds of creatives, and will have different conversion rates. It is essential, therefore, to not club them all under the same approach.

Avoid making premature decisions

Far too many brands do not spend enough time studying the market data. Without enough data insights, you would not be able to conclude whether a particular parameter is useful or not reliably.

Use a tracking platform

No successful data campaign runs on instinct. You need to have a firm hand on the data and how each ad is progressing. Based on the trends you see, conduct split testing and make the necessary tweaks.

Keep an eye on the competitors

By watching what other brands in your space are doing, you can get an idea of how to improve your ad content, which channels to pick, how much to invest in each, which ad server to pick, which time slots to target, and so on. There are several “ad spy tools“ that can help you do this without spending too much.

Do not be seduced by high payouts

While offers with extra-high payouts might look appealing, they typically involve much higher costs too. It makes more sense to spend prudently on less expensive channels.

Media Buying Brief Summary

Media buying can be expensive but done correctly, it can be extremely profitable. The quality media buying process is highly nuanced and focuses on acquiring the optimal ad placement for maximum conversions.

Therefore, conduct thorough research on media buying trends and choose a reputed media buying partner that has experience in your niche and can offer various offline or online media buying services so that you can make the most of your time and resources.

Or, you can bring your media buying in-house by adopting the programmatic approach and using a self-serve or a white-label DSP to implement your strategy.


Looking to run your programmatic media buying campaign in 2022? Use Epom's powerful ad management platform to run, track and optimize your ad activities hassle-free!

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