Media Buying 101: An Introduction To Media Planning & Buying

Media Planning & Buying 101

Years later I still think back to one of the first explanations I had of what a media buyer is responsible for. My mentor warned me, “no one will ever understand what you do,” and he was right. I like to think of myself as a personable guy, yet at a party when I try to explain what I do, I typically have less than 30-seconds before the eyes of even my closest friends start to glaze over when explaining my day-to-day. At Dirigo Collective, we work with a lot of agencies because – quite simply – they get it; the time, the effort, the resources, and most importantly the expertise it takes to service their clients media needs, but to others it’s typically a bit more challenging to explain. And understandably so, the job of a media planning and buying agent has changed. A LOT.

Here’s how media buying was explained to me, and surprisingly, how I still hear too many folks in the industry speak of the profession (Don’t get me wrong, it still makes a lot of sense, as the job hasn’t itself hasn’t changed, rather expanded…ten fold. I hope by the end of this you’re thinking about the 21st century media buyer):

For whatever reason many folks in our field always draw an analogy to food. Say your goal is to make a pie for a party you’re having. You look up the recipe and go to the grocery store and within a few minutes you can go down the few aisles, pick up your ingredients, and be out of there before you can finish singing the latest top 40 hit you can’t get out of your head… It’s always Taylor Swift (she has catchy tunes, let’s be honest. I digress…). Now imagine going to the grocery store, and while you have the recipe in hand with the few ingredients you need, that aisle of hundreds of products all start pitching you their brand, their product, and their recipe. Naturally you start second guessing your recipe because holy smokes you just heard a dozen other ways that you could make “the best pie ever!” This is where some sound guidance would come in handy.

Media planners and buyers of yesteryear often relate themselves to a fine chef or a baker who knows the right recipe for the right occasion, and knows all the local farmers who have the best ingredients. While that’s a total valid explanation, there’s so much more too it. We use data as our main ingredient and we grow that in-house vs relying on vendors – when we can. Today, people need to start thinking less about the pie and more about the people eating it.

While the chef is a cute way of thinking about our field I think it’s becoming more and more obsolete. Reason being, our work is never complete. There are simply too many variables in today’s landscape to ever set it and forget it. People have more options than ever before. They are consuming in ways our economy has never seen before. The pie is never complete, which is why we at Dirigo Collective like to think of ourselves as scientists of sorts. Because that’s what media planning has become- It’s a science of audience planning rather than media. The medium drives the message but people are what influence the media. We use data to “bake our pies” and the data is derived from an increasing amount of different channels, which tell us how media is being consumed right now, and how people are engaging with the brands and content that they are exposed to.

When we talk about media, we’re not splitting up the conversation between what some call traditional and digital media, remember that media is a device for communication. We don’t believe in putting them in silos, and why would we? People use their televisions as their radio, gaming consoles for TV, and radio platforms for video – and an increasing amount of devices like smart speakers are on the rise. The media landscape is far more complex and that’s because the way people consume and communicate is rapidly evolving.

As media planners and buyers, we’re consistently tasked with researching specific audiences beyond the age, gender and location like our profession once was held to, we’re connecting people with content. We put people first and how we do that is by discussing media as a personalized vehicle, and the data allows us to better understand our audience. That’s the only way we’ll enrich our communities through more meaningful content and long lasting brands.

We connect people with their audience, and – through data and much research – plan more cost efficient advertising by eliminating waste, and more effective omni-channel presence. Welcome to the new age of media. Welcome to the media planners and buyers of tomorrow.

By Chris Marine