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Media buying 101: Everything you need to know to grab your audience's attention

Since the dawn of commerce, marketers have been asking the same age-old question. What makes a perfect ad campaign?

November 12, 2020

And while there are many levels to pull — and different departments would claim their responsibilities as being the most important — it actually all comes down to this: getting the right ad, in front of the right people, at the right time.

Media buying plays a vital role in making that happen. 

After all, modern advertising campaigns are like finely-tuned machines, and media buying is a crucial lever. Without a media buyer, you’ve got nowhere to place your ad. The result? Absolutely zero exposure whatsoever.

Let’s start at the beginning: what is media buying?

Put simply, media buying is the process of buying ad space.

Media buyers engage directly with the advertising channels themselves, ensuring that the budget is assigned in the most cost-effective way. Sometimes, this involves monopolizing on under-served channels or shaking hands with media vendors to snag the very best deals.

When buying ad placements, media buyers must find a way to deliver relevant, targeted ads that meet the campaign goals — whether that's increasing conversion rates, boosting sales, strengthening brand awareness, or all of the above.

Media buyers pay to "rent" ad placements for a set period of time, so they need to find ad space available during the right times for their campaign. 

So how does media buying actually work? (and where do media planners come in?)

Media buyers work hand-in-hand with media planners, tag-teaming to deliver the most effective campaign possible. Here's what that process looks like from start to finish. 

1. Identifying the target audience 

Before buying an ad placement, you need to know who you're trying to reach — that much is a given. But how does this work in practice?

In most cases, media planners are the ones to work with the client; identifying the target audience and getting beneath their skin. Once the media planner has got it all worked out, they can brief the media buyer on the specifics, but we’re not quite there yet...

2. Conducting market research

Where does the target audience shop, live, eat, exercise, and so on? What websites do they visit? What time of day are they in the house watching TV? When are they outside taking a walk? What route do they talk walking the kids to school?

Questions like these help you figure out where to place your ads to make sure your audience actually sees them — and that’s key to an effective media buy.

3. Setting campaign goals 

Next, it’s time to set objectives for your campaign. Is your goal to increase brand awareness? Drive conversions or sales? Bring back repeat customers?

When you know what your goals are, you can set benchmarks to measure your campaign's success. In media buying 101, these benchmarks help a media buyer choose the right locations for ad messages, too.

4. Planning the campaign strategy 

With objectives in place, planning the campaign strategy can begin. Campaign strategies should include your budget, which channels you plan to use, and the overall messaging and idea behind the campaign creative.

This includes defining your “marketing mix” — or how you'll allocate time and budget across multiple platforms. A well fleshed out campaign strategy helps media buyers go into negotiations for ad placements with a clear plan. Which leads us to...

5. Purchasing ad placements

It's time to put the "buying" in "media buying", by purchasing ad space across your chosen channels. Media buyers negotiate for ad time and space to get the placements that fit their campaign strategy and objective. The best media buyers build relationships with different channels, which gives them strong negotiating power for future campaigns. 

With digital media buying, you can sometimes automate the bidding process through programmatic bidding. Not all media buying is a set-and-forget process, however. Media buyers likely need to adjust budgets and bids throughout this step of the process to maximize ROI.

6. Launching the campaign

This step is the most straightforward: once all of the ad placements have been purchased, your ad campaign is ready to launch! But the work’s not over yet...

7. Measuring results

After your campaign launches, keep a firm eye on its performance and watch how your campaign results track against the metrics you set earlier.

If a campaign performs well early on, some media buyers may choose to purchase additional ad placements or extend the campaign. If your campaign performance is less than ideal, though, now's the time to adjust accordingly. 

Great media planners and buyers use the results and learnings from every campaign to make their next one even better.

What types of media buys and ad placements are out there?

Now that you know what goes into the media buying process, we can take a deeper dive into the different ad placements available to media buyers. 

What types of ad spaces are available? And most importantly, how can you choose the right one for your campaign?

Media buys can include both traditional and digital channels. Traditional channels include TV ads, print ads in newspapers and magazines, radio ads, and classic Out Of Home (OOH) ads — anything that isn't digital.  

Digital advertising channels cover a much broader and more versatile range of ad opportunities, including:

  • Display ads
  • Social media ads
  • Paid search
  • Mobile ads
  • Video ads
  • Digital OOH ads (DOOH)

This last type of ad — Digital Out Of Home — creates exciting opportunities for media buyers. In recent years, more and more brands have turned to DOOH to lift the benefits of traditional OOH sky high, with DOOH accounting for 28.3% of all OOH ads in 2019.

Digital Out Of Home advertising lets advertisers create immersive, memorable and often interactive campaigns. And the most exciting medium for DOOH? We’d say elevator advertising

Vertical Impression's platform was built to deliver truly exceptional DOOH, on a network of elevator screens — leveraging AI and machine learning to target ads in a way that is often only achievable online. For media buyers, DOOH helps combine the reach of traditional OOH advertising with the targeting and technology of digital advertising.

All in all, digital ad placements allow for much more targeted campaigns, while traditional ads work better for awareness plays. The right one for your campaign will depend on your goals, budget, and audience. 

Looking to design, plan and launch ads that really stand out? Here’s what you need to know

While media buying is an essential part of a successful advertising campaign, exposure on its own will only take you so far. To really deliver a memorable message, and see the result you’re after, you need to tick each of the following boxes:

  • Choose a targeted placement, not just a high-traffic one: Getting a lot of eyes on your ad is great, but how much are those eyes worth to you really? Find the right balance of footfall and target audience relevancy when choosing your ad space.

  • Speak to your audience's needs, wants and pain points: Put that early market research to good use. Let your audience know that you understand them, and explain how your product or service will solve their problems.
  • Craft an attention-grabbing headline: All ad copy is important, but many ads live or die by the headline. Your headline should grab — and keep — your audience's attention before they can look away. In an elevator, we should say, you’ve got their undivided attention, too.

  • Use imagery that connects with your brand: No matter your brand's visual identity, make sure that your creative matches. Keeping your brand image consistent helps people recognize your brand long after they’ve walked away.

  • Include a call-to-action (CTA): By the time they're done looking at your ad, your audience should know what next steps to take or where to find more information. Your exact CTA depends on your campaign strategy, but it should be clear to your audience. 

There are always new ad technologies and platforms popping up, but these tips are tried-and-true ways to make the most of your ad. And to take you over the finish line, there’s Vertical Impression.

With our innovative AI-powered platform, we’re taking DOOH — and elevator advertising in particular — to the next level. Why not come along for the ride? Get in touch with the team today, and let’s plan your next ad campaign together.

Start planning a smarter campaign today.