Media Buying and Planning: A How-To Guide

Media buying and planning is an essential component of any successful marketing campaign. It requires understanding your target audience, identifying the best ways to reach and engage them, and then buying the appropriate ad space or time.

At a high level, here are the five steps you need to follow in your media buying and planning process:

  1. Conduct comprehensive market research to identify your target audiences.
  2. Analyze your data to understand your audiences’ interests.
  3. Determine where your audiences will be most receptive to your messages.
  4. Develop creative that will drive conversions.
  5. Measure your results and test and refine your ad placements and creative based on what’s working and what’s not.

If you’re looking for a little more detail than that, let’s take a closer look at media buying and planning, as well as some key considerations and strategies marketers should keep in mind when developing campaigns.

What Is Media Buying and Planning?

At its core, media buying and planning involves identifying the most effective media channels to use in reaching your target audience. This could include everything from social media platforms and search engines to television, billboards and radio advertisements.

Once you’ve identified the most appropriate channels, the next step is purchasing the necessary advertising space or time. This could involve negotiating with media owners to secure the best possible rates or using an advertising agency with experience in media placements to help you navigate the process.

The goal of media buying and planning is to support and maximize the impact of your overall marketing efforts, by reaching the right people at the right time and in the right place. By carefully selecting your media channels based on your understanding of your target audience, you can ensure your message gets seen by the people with the most interest in what you’re offering.

Key Considerations for Media Buying and Planning

For brands looking to leverage media buying and planning, there are some critical elements to keep in mind.


You need to know how much money you have available to spend, and then you can determine how to allocate that budget as effectively as possible.

Target Audience

Whom are you trying to reach? Identify your target demographic, including their anticipated interests and media consumption habits? Understanding your target audience lets you identify the most appropriate channels for your campaign.

Campaign Goals

Before you begin, determine your specific goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales? Your campaign’s goals will help to shape your media strategy and determine the most effective channels and tactics.


What is the primary message you want to convey to your target audience? A clear and compelling message can increase the effectiveness of your campaign.


When it comes to maximizing the impact of your media plan, timing is everything. This can include the initial launch plan as well as optimal times for your ads to run on each channel.

Strategies for Effective Media Buying and Planning

We’ve looked at key considerations for media buying and planning; now let’s review strategies marketers can use to ensure that their campaigns make the right impact.

Develop Your Go-to-Market Plan

Once you’ve got your research in hand, you’re ready to develop a comprehensive go-to-market plan for your advertising. Your plan should be based on your detailed analysis of your target audience and include your campaign timeline, channels and tactics as well as a breakdown of your budget by tactic and timeframe.

Leverage Data and Analytics

Data and analytics are essential for digital marketers, especially when executing a media campaign. Analyzing your data not only helps you identify the most effective channels before you launch, but you can also use it to optimize your campaigns in real time. Media plans should never be “set it and forget it”; use your campaign’s performance data to adjust your messaging and media placement.

Use a Multi-Channel Approach

As part of a test-and-refine media strategy, implementing your advertising with a multi-channel approach gives you the best opportunity to reach your desired audiences. Utilizing multiple channels helps you reach a larger audience, as well as increase awareness of your brand and your message. Additionally, if you find your ads not performing well in one channel, you can easily shift your budget across your other channels or test different creative and messaging to improve performance.

Test and Verify. Rinse and Repeat.

As important as your initial plan is, until your ads are in market, you don’t know exactly how they’ll perform. Don’t assume once you’ve hit your launch date that you can sit back and let your campaign run in the background. It’s critical to continuously evaluate and fine-tune your campaign — while also verifying that you received everything you expected to from your media buying contracts. Make sure you cross-check your invoices against your insertion orders and get any discrepancies resolved — excellent media plans take a lot of work, and you want to ensure you get your money’s worth out of them.


Justin Eveloff

Written by Justin Eveloff, Vice President, Performance Marketing

Read more about effective media buying and planning in action.

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