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Media Planning & Buying


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Steps in Planning & Buying

From start to finish, what is media planning and buying and how can one be successful?

Media planning and buying is the process of strategizing, negotiating, and purchasing ad placements, or "inventory". When planning what inventory to purchase, planners must take into consideration the product being advertised, target audience, and campaign goals. In addition, not only are media buyers responsible for making the initial purchase, but also for continuing to optimize performance throughout the entire campaign lifecycle.

Steps In Media Planning and Buying Digital Marketing Guide


•    Audience research. What is your target audience? How does your target audience shift by medium? 
•    Plan your spend across buy type. What percentage of your campaign will be devoted to which types of buys, from display to search, and beyond?
•    What percentage of your spend will be on guaranteed inventory versus non-guaranteed (RTB)?

•    For guaranteed inventory, the planning stage may include sending RFPs (requests for proposals) to suppliers you are interested in including in your campaign. For inventory you've purchased before, you can also purchase premium, guaranteed inventory at your own established rates without needing to RFP, by purchasing programmatically (automated guaranteed).


•    For guaranteed inventory, the number of impressions and rate you are purchasing inventory for has been solidified, whether through established rates or by receiving a proposal back from a supplier.
•    Complete your media plan with every placement from every supplier to be included in your campaign, including the time frame each placement will run. 
•    Many buyers must secure approval for their media plan prior to formalizing their order in the form of an IO.
•    For buys facilitated via RTB, agency or agency trading desk buyers will submit budget line items to their DSPs, and direct publishers if applicable.


•    The media plan is executed, with placements sent to the ad server, waiting their opportunity to be served to the correct audience.
•    Orders are processed as "IOs" or "insertion orders" which include the planned billings for a campaign.
•    The buyer-seller relationship continues throughout the order process, if any revisions are needed to an insertion order.


•    The ad-ops or trafficking team is responsible for logging into the ad server(s) associated with the campaign and tagging the placements on the ad server with their appropriate pieces of creative.
•    Tags for size, media type, and more are associated with each placement.
•    It is generally best practice to tag a back-up static piece of creative for each placement in cases where dynamic creatives are unable to be served.


•    A necessary part of managing every campaign is measuring success, holistically as well as on a more granular level.
•    You can use both first-party delivery data (from the publisher's ad server) and third-party delivery data (from the agency ad server).
•    Performance can be tracked all the way from the specific creative up to a holistic campaign view, and even cross-campaign. Pacing measures how budget is being spent relative to time within a campaign's flight.


•    Agencies and publishers compare their delivery data and other financials, and work to reconcile discrepancies
•    Financials for current and future campaigns may be amended based on overdelivery or underdelivery of a campaign.
•    Final costs per supplier, per time period are communicated to the billing system for Accounts Payable.

How has the buy process evolved in digital advertising’s short history?

Digital advertising was originally approached as direct sales: publishers and advertisers purchased premium inventory they felt best fit their audiences directly from each other. This process often involved a lot of back-and-forth with hundreds of spreadsheets, proposals, phone calls, and emails – and is still used today. However, digital buying has evolved to now include programmatic buying (real-time bidding and automated guaranteed) and a much more streamlined RFP process.

What is Real-Time Bidding and Automated Guaranteed?

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) is a type of programmatic purchasing that buys impressions one at a time, based on demographic targeting. Buyers bid on an impression, and if they win, their ad is instantly displayed. All RTB inventory is non-guaranteed. RTB was originally used for unsold remnant inventory, but this is changing to also include premium inventory due to demand and high yields. The RTB process involves a number of players: the publisher providing the inventory; the Ad Exchange that connects advertisers and publishers to facilitate the purchasing; and the Demand Side Platform (DSP) that helps automate the purchasing for advertisers. These players are not necessarily present in RFP-based purchasing or programmatic direct.

Automated Guaranteed differs from RTB in that inventory is purchased for future serving, rather than in real time –and that inventory is guaranteed. Also known as “programmatic direct,” the buys are made directly with publishers rather than through the intermediaries commonly used for RTB. Automated guaranteed platforms directly integrate with a publisher’s ad server and query the number of guaranteed impressions available, which buyers then commit to purchasing.