Step-by-Step Process to Media Buying

No matter how excellent your ad, if it’s not seen/heard/experienced, it’s not effective. Linking the ad to the audience is the business of media buying. It’s not something that gets a lot of screen time on Mad Men.4604094910_2145403896

Anyone who runs a small business has probably bought some media at some point. The most common media buy used to be the Yellow Pages. Innovation means that phone directories have moved online, but they are still one of the most basic advertising placements.

There is a step-by-step process to media buying, which you can actually apply to something as simple as placing your listing in a directory, or something as complicated as buying a TV spot in the Super Bowl, or a sign in the stadium where it’s being played. Here is a list of the steps:

  1. Identify the audience you want to reach. It could be just any people in your town, but today’s technology provides the ability to target very discretely – you can decide your audience is teenagers who have attended a concert in the past 6 months and who live in a certain zip code. In social media, the current trend is to identify a persona, which is an amalgam of the traits you want in your audience. However you do it, it’s a key step that wants some thought.
  2. Figure out what that audience is doing in places and spaces where you might be able to reach them. Do they watch TV? Surf the internet? Listen to Pandora? Commute long distances? Go to sports events? The more you know about their habits, the more opportunities you can discover to reach them.
  3. Figure out how to reach your audience using what you know about their lives and media consumption. Most people are exposed to hundreds or thousands of advertising impressions every day. Even people who try to avoid advertising (DVR, anyone?) will still run into billboards, product placements, in-store point of sale, and more. Out at the fringes of advertising, innovative (or crazy) marketers put ads on eggs and fruit, on subway turnstiles, in your doctor’s office, on cardboard coffee sleeves, and more.
  4. Once you have a list of advertising possibilities, use the Internet to research and find those who sell the ads. Some advertising can be purchased online, but most is still sold in a face-to-face or phone conversations. Don’t forget places and spaces you have access to in your business – point of sale in your business location provides ad messages that you don’t have to pay to place.
  5. Compare different types of advertising by establishing a common denominator. Some advertising media provide audience data on very narrowly targeted audiences. Find a way to compare different media. Use this information to negotiate the best possible buy you can. In advertising and media, much is negotiable – time, dates, cost, and volume will all play a part in determining what kind of buy you can negotiate. Be sure to keep in mind the value of your time – is it worthwhile to negotiate for hours to save a few bucks? You have to decide. Like so many other things you buy, media is only worth what someone will pay for it. Media vendors can often be more flexible on pricing if you can be flexible about some of the other components. For example, a pre-emptible television or radio spot costs less than a fixed position non-pre-emptible one. Prepaying for your ad schedule will often cause vendors to give you a break on price.
  6. Be sure to follow up after the ads have run, and find out if they performed as you expected. If your negotiation included an estimated audience, go back and find out if you reached the audience you expected. Make sure all of your cardboard coffee sleeves were distributed, not left under the counter at the coffee shop. Hold your vendor accountable for delivering on what they sold you.

Though, some of us in the media business say, “It’s not rocket science,” there is real skill in finding the right audiences and putting your messages in front of them. At some point, the complexity of the media buy will require you to seek out help.

Have questions? Give us a ring! Stealth offers media planning and buying services, so be sure to get in touch if we can offer support to you in your development of audiences, targeting and media opportunities. Making sure your ad is put in front of your audience is a daily exercise for us.

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