What Is a Media Buyer

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Consistent with a variety of industries, the digital age is disrupting media buying and advertising. Media buying previously consisted of connecting advertisements with appropriate television channels or magazines; but the media buyer of today also works on multiple—and often coordinating—digital platforms.

Consider a mom who takes her toddler to the park and notices a Pampers ad on a park bench. Prior to the digital age, this may have been her only opportunity for exposure to this ad. However, later that evening after she puts her child to bed, she comes across the same ad in the form of a banner at the top of an article she was reading about diaper rashes.

While digital media has changed the way advertisements are placed, it has also changed the way media buying is conducted. Below we’ll take a look at the role of a media buyer and how digital marketing and media professionals can build a career in the advertising industry.

What does a media buyer do?

Media buyers specialize in the purchasing of advertising spaces that ultimately house marketing messages for target audiences. They create a media plan and utilize various media outlets to achieve this goal. These media outlets include traditional outlets—such as radio advertising—and new outlets—such as social media platforms.

Prior to the adoption of the internet, media buying was kept in-house within the largest advertising agencies. After the dot-com crash, media management companies began to form, and the 2007-08 financial crisis allowed the opportunity for smaller media buying agencies to emerge and compete for business within the industry. Thus, media buyers work in a variety of media companies and in various capacities, from full-time corporate work to freelance services.

Your title as a media buyer will vary depending on your company’s size and industry. When larger companies with established marketing and advertising teams have divided responsibilities among groups, employees who focus more on the strategy and development side of media buying are often referred to as media planners. The size of your company may also determine how quickly you will promote to a senior-level position and what salary range is offered.

Below are average salaries for media buyers, according to PayScale:

Title Average Annual Salary Top 10 percent
Junior Media Buyer $38,000 $46,000
Media Buyer $47,000 $65,000
Senior Media Buyer $61,500 $88,000
Media Planner $50,000 $63,000
Senior Media Planner $57,000 $77,000

In addition to individual contributor media buying positions, media buyers can eventually follow an executive career path. A media buyer could become a marketing or advertising director which earns more than $90,000 per year, or a chief marketing officer, which earns $171,500 per year. If you’re interested in starting a career as a media buyer, there are a variety of grad programs that can help guide your path.

Stages of the media buying process

What is the media buying process? While each media buyer likely has a unique strategy, media buying is supported by various functions that can be understood in four simplified steps:

Step 1: Research

  • Identify and understand the client’s target market, as well as their competition.
  • Conduct adequate market research and be ready and equipped to provide advertising recommendations for the client’s market.

Step 2: Set goals

  • Define the goals of the campaign.
  • Establish and manage a budget.

Step 3: Define a strategy

  • Establish a marketing strategy and develop a media plan.
  • Use resources wisely and identify the most efficient combination of media that will best fit the largest number of consumers and effectively increases ROI.
  • Identify the appropriate platforms, channels, and partners, and begin networking.

Step 4: Launch and test

  • Launch the advertisement, run tests, and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Track and optimize performance and recommend methods of improvement.

The effects of digital media include changes in the day-to-day functions of media buyers. Traditional advertising focused on the amount of people that could be reached, while digital advertising is strategy driven and aims to only reach people who will actually be interested in the product or service being offered.

Traditional forms of advertising, however, are still valuable, especially when used alongside digital advertising. The availability of large datasets and the ability of business and marketing analytics professionals to analyze this data and provide important business insight allows media buyers to use more accurate insights regarding the target audience. It also allows media buyers to run analytics tests in the middle of a marketing ad campaign so necessary adjustments can be made to maximize the resources of the project.

Traditional media includes:

  • Radio,
  • Television,
  • Magazines, and
  • Newspapers.

Digital media includes:

  • Satellite television,
  • Cable television,
  • Satellite radio, and
  • Internet channels: social media, emails, search engines and referral links, web portals, banners, interactive games, and video clips.

Whether executed in-house or outsourced, media buying is an essential component to the success of advertising endeavors. Even the most innovative advertising messages can fail if they’re not delivered to the correct target persona. Media buyers and media planners maintain the following key roles when implementing a media buying strategy:

  • Act as liaison between advertisers and agencies
  • Most important task: determine which tactics and channels someone should use to connect with their audience and accomplish their goals
  • Marketing consultant: When it comes to making a marketing campaign successful, media buyers are important because they want to make sure you’re getting the best ROI for a media budget

Skills and education needed to become a media buyer

Typically, media professionals thrive in this career if they have taken the time to understand the market, possess the drive to learn, and are strong in a particular set of skills, including analytical, organizational, and communication skills. As intuitive and resourceful problem solvers, media buyers are expected to be digital experts and should always keep up with the latest trends for media buying tools and resources.

If you’re interested in becoming a media buyer, a background or undergraduate degree in a media-related or business discipline can be helpful, but it’s not required. This is especially true if you choose to pursue a graduate degree, such as Yeshiva Katz’s online MS in Digital Marketing and Media. A graduate degree is an excellent way to hone your marketing skills and increase your earning potential.

Here is a list of other essential skills media buyers and media planners should have:

  • Presenting and leading discussions in client meetings
  • Networking and negotiating with necessary purchasing agents
  • Delivering expectations and reporting results to clients
  • Maintaining ongoing knowledge of the current market trends
  • Researching and gathering key information to make the most informed decisions
  • Coordinating with multiple disciplines to achieve a common goal
  • Tracking key performance indicators
  • Building strong and lasting relationships
  • Developing and managing strict budgets
  • Ability to keep up with technology trends and developments

Another great way to learn how to become a media buyer is to work for one of the many successful and established advertising agencies and alongside senior media buyers or a media director who have years of experience in the advertising field. This type of career advancement is something you will find while completing the right master’s program, which has a supportive and knowledgeable faculty group that can help guide you in the right direction.

Tools and resources for becoming a media buyer

Becoming a great digital media buyer requires education, training, and experience. Completing a master’s program is an excellent tool when it comes to expanding your knowledge and understanding of the marketing and advertising industry. Earning a graduate degree will help you learn today’s in-demand techniques and technologies concerning media outlets, and opens the door for you to prepare for tomorrow’s emerging ad campaign trends. Developing your skills and confidence will allow you to advance as a media buyer and help your company grow through a well-executed marketing strategy.

With the digital climate changing so quickly, continuing education is required in the field of media buying, above and beyond a master’s degree. You can keep up with the latest trends, emerging technologies, regulations, news, and events by subscribing to top industry resources, such as the following:

  • Digiday: Takes a global view of the media and marketing industries and confronts the truths in technology’s disruption of these industries.
  • Adweek: A leading source of news and insight serving the brand marketing ecosystem.
  • AdExchanger: An integrated media and events company devoted to the digital advertising and marketing space.

Another valuable resource for media buyers is to attend events, training programs, and seminars. While keeping up-to-date through industry subscriptions is a great way to stay connected, actually meeting real, like-minded people and sharing ideas and methods is exceedingly important for your professional growth.

There are also a number of tools and resources that will continue to help you throughout your media buying career. Below are a few of the most effective media buying software tools:

  • Kantar’s SRDS Media Planning Platform: Find and compare digital and traditional media across business, consumer, and geographic audiences.
  • Advantage Software: Enables agencies with real-time information and allows a workflow system that automates project management and media billing.
  • Bionic’s software: Provides all-in-one software that creates and executes media plans, sends RFPs, and places purchase orders.
  • comSCORE: Researches target audiences and performs cross-platform measurements.
  • Nielsen Total Audience: Provides a platform that plans, activates, and measures content and ad campaigns.
  • MediaForce: Plans and purchases digital display media, compares programs, and measures ratings and results.
  • Google Trends: Tracks technology trends and measures brand popularity.
  • Think with Google: Provides insights into new trends and data across industries, platforms, and audiences.
  • Kantar’s TGI Solution: Enables agencies to identify, target, and reach their audience by providing insights into consumer characteristics, and build campaigns with the best media mixes.
  • Mediatool: Provides a comprehensive overview of all your marketing activities.
  • AdReady: A full-service ad tech platform that takes agencies through the beginning and end stages of campaigns.
  • Outbrain: Helps media companies better manage, control, and monetize their content, and drives engagement with the target market.
  • AdRoll: Allows agencies to plug into a technology stack and manage clients and campaigns from a single dashboard.

Pursue your passion by furthering your education

To be a successful media buyer, you must have expertise in the field and be ready to contribute to a new employer on Day One. At Yeshiva Katz, the online MS in Digital Marketing and Media program offers a rigorous program—offered entirely online—with hands-on experiences and assignments that present real-world application.

This highly intensive program is designed for motivated professionals who are interested in learning about the future of digital marketing. The goal of the program is to enable candidates to strengthen the data and analytics skills needed to be a successful digital professional. With expert faculty and courses such as “Consumer Behavior and Customer Relationship Management” you’ll be prepared to resolve the most complex marketing and advertising issues.

Reach out today to learn more about the potential of an exciting and rewarding career.

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