Media Planning vs. Media Buying: Process, Plans + INSIDER Sneak Peek

Alexandra Kazakova

By Alexandra Kazakova
13 min READ | Jul 2 2024

Table of contents

If you’re looking for a data-driven way to promote your business, you’re reading the right article.

We’ll discuss media planning vs. media buying and how to leverage them successfully.

Our clients used the same strategy and got results like this:

So, let’s dive in.


Overview: Media planning and buying are essential for effective marketing; planning focuses on strategy and channel selection, while buying involves negotiating and purchasing ad space.

Media Planning:

  • Involves identifying optimal platforms and timings to reach target audiences.
  • Requires skills in analytics, research, negotiation, and strategic thinking.
  • Follows a 7-step process including setting objectives, market research, budgeting, media mix selection, scheduling, campaign oversight, and optimization.

Media Buying:

  • Centers on acquiring advertising space and managing budget for maximum ROI.
  • Demands strong negotiation, analytical skills, and attention to detail.
  • Process includes negotiation, buying, ad trafficking, monitoring performance, and optimization.


  • Issues like ad clutter, budget constraints, changing media landscapes, measurement of campaign effectiveness, and maintaining consistent messaging.
  • Solutions involve targeted audience segmentation, leveraging industry insights, and using advanced analytics.

Best Practices:

  • Develop an integrated strategy that aligns planning and buying.
  • Use data-driven decision-making for accurate targeting and optimization.
  • Continuously monitor and adjust based on campaign performance metrics.
  • Ensure collaborative execution among media planners, buyers, and creative teams.

Tools and Tips:

  • Leverage UGC and influencer content to enhance reach and engagement.
  • Free toolkit available for monitoring campaigns and vetting influencer profiles.

What Is Media Planning and Buying? Similarities and Differences at a Glance

Media planning and buying are essential components of successful marketing strategies.

Media planning involves identifying the best platforms and times to deliver your message to the right audience.

It's about strategy, research, and analysis to ensure maximum impact according to your campaign goals.

Media buying focuses on the negotiation and purchase of ad space and time, ensuring the execution of the media plan.

Both processes are crucial for a cohesive marketing campaign, but they serve different roles.

Think of media planning as crafting the perfect recipe and media buying as sourcing the finest ingredients.

Insider tip: Our secret weapon is UGC and influencer content to ensure your message reaches the right people at the right time to maximize your ROI. Whether it's digital advertising, print, or broadcast, our integrated approach makes sure your marketing dollars work smarter, not harder.

What Is Media Planning?

Media planning is the strategic process of selecting the most effective media platforms to advertise a business’s products or services.

Media planning involves researching target audiences, analyzing media consumption patterns, and creating a detailed plan to deliver the right message at the right time.

Digital media planning involves creating a strategy for online channels, such as social media platforms, Google, and various other ad platforms.

The goal is to create a successful ad campaign while optimizing your ad spend and maximizing reach and engagement.

That way, our specialists ensure that your advertising budget is used efficiently to achieve your marketing objectives.

What Does a Media Planner Do?

Here's what the planning phase involves:

  • Researches and analyzes target audience demographics, media habits, and customer journeys.
  • Develops strategic media plans based on campaign objectives.
  • Selects appropriate media channels (digital, social channels, print, TV, radio, etc.).
  • Monitors and adjusts campaigns based on performance metrics.
  • Collaborates with creative and marketing teams to align messaging.
  • Provides detailed reports and insights on campaign effectiveness.

Key Skills of a Media Planner

Here’s what to look for in a good media planner before hiring them:

  • Strong analytical and research abilities
  • Excellent negotiation skills
  • Strategic thinking and creativity
  • Proficiency in media planning software and tools
  • Effective communication and collaboration skills
  • Ability to interpret data and performance metrics

Media Planning Process: Our 7-Step Plan

Here’s how we conduct media planning processes and how we advise our clients to do as well:

1. Objective setting: We start by working closely with our clients to define clear and measurable marketing objectives.

We ask targeted questions to understand their goals, such as increasing brand awareness or driving sales.

Using the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound), we help our clients set precise goals that align with their overall business strategy.

2. Market research: We employ a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand your target audience.

We analyze demographic data, conduct surveys, and use audience analytics tools.

Creating detailed buyer personas allows us to pinpoint exactly who we’re targeting and how they consume media.

3. Budget allocation: We guide our clients through the budgeting process by analyzing their past spending and industry benchmarks.

We prioritize spending based on the expected return on investment for each media channel. This approach ensures that the budget is allocated efficiently, focusing on high-impact areas that align with the client’s objectives.

4. Media mix selection: Our team evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of various media channels, considering factors like reach, cost, and audience engagement.

We create a balanced media mix tailored to the client's target audience and goals.

For example, if a client's audience is highly active on social media, we might allocate more budget to digital channels.

5. Media scheduling: We develop a detailed media schedule that outlines the best times to run ads for maximum impact.

This includes selecting specific dates, times of day, and durations.

We use tools like historical performance data and seasonality trends to determine the optimal ad schedule, ensuring our client's message reaches the audience at peak times.

6. Campaign overseeing: We oversee the implementation of the media plan, coordinating with creative teams to ensure ads are delivered on time and on brand.

We manage the launch across all selected channels, monitoring the process to guarantee everything runs smoothly.

7. Monitoring and optimization: Once the campaign is live, we continuously monitor its performance using advanced analytics tools.

We track key metrics like reach, engagement, and conversions.

Based on real-time data, we make informed adjustments to optimize the campaign, ensuring our clients achieve the best possible results.

Case Study Break: Hurom

Remember the screenshot we started with?

These results are from our work with cold-press juicer brand Hurom.

Hurom was dealing with increased ad fatigue, rising CPAs, and low ROAS.

Our agency’s media planning team identified a slew of issues:

  • Highly promotional ads
  • Over-dependence on promotional discounts
  • Sales-driven messaging

Our media planners then developed a strategic plan:

  • Shift from an ‘always on sale’ approach to a ‘health-focused’ messaging strategy
  • Using influencers to create social proof and change the brand’s image

Pro tip: Finding the right influencers can be tough, but our influencer discovery platform streamlines the process.

You simply filter by the keywords and stats you want and then compare influencer profiles by looking at their engagement rates and follower info.

You can also use our free toolkit to vet influencers’ profiles for fake followers or find similar creators.

What Is Media Buying?

Media buying is the process of purchasing advertising space and time on various media platforms to promote a business’s products or services.

Effective media buying involves negotiating the best rates, securing prime ad placements, and ensuring that ads are delivered to the right audience at the right time.

Pro tip: The digital media buying process is more complex than traditional media buying.

That's why you need a solid team.

The primary goal of media buying is to maximize your advertising campaign’s impact and reach while optimizing your budget for the best possible return on investment.

What Does a Media Buyer Do?

  • Negotiates rates: Secures the most favorable rates and terms for ad placements by leveraging industry relationships and expertise.
  • Purchases media space/time: Buys advertising space on various platforms, such as TV, radio stations, digital, print, and social media. Skilled media buyers also do real-time bidding to reach your marketing goals.
  • Analyzes media performance: Monitors the performance of purchased media to ensure ads are delivering the desired results.
  • Collaborates with media planners: Works closely with media planners to align purchases with the overall media strategy.
  • Manages budgets: Ensures that the advertising budget is spent efficiently and effectively across all chosen media channels.
  • Ad trafficking: Ensures that ad materials are delivered to media vendors on time and in the correct format.
  • Optimization: Continuously optimizes media placements based on performance data to improve campaign effectiveness.

Media Buyer Skills

When assessing different media buyers, look for the following abilities:

  • Negotiation skills: Strong ability to negotiate favorable terms and rates with media vendors.
  • Analytical skills: Proficiency in analyzing data and metrics to measure campaign performance and make informed adjustments.
  • Budget management: Expertise in managing and allocating advertising budgets to maximize ROI.
  • Attention to detail: Meticulous in ensuring all ad placements are accurate and comply with campaign specifications.
  • Communication skills: Effective at collaborating with media planners, vendors, and creative teams to ensure seamless execution of campaigns.
  • Technical proficiency: Familiarity with media buying platforms and tools to streamline the buying process and track performance.

Media Buying Process: Another In-House Plan

Here’s what our agency’s experienced media buyers do:

1. Negotiation: Using our extensive industry experience and relationships, we negotiate the best rates and placements for our clients.

This includes securing discounts, premium placements, and added value opportunities like bonus impressions or extended ad runs.

Our goal is to maximize the client's budget while ensuring high-quality exposure.

2. Media buying: Once negotiations are complete, we proceed with the actual purchase of media space and time.

This step involves placing orders, confirming schedules, and ensuring all details are accurately documented.

We use media buying platforms and software to streamline the process and maintain accuracy.

3. Ad trafficking: We coordinate with creative teams to ensure all ad materials are delivered to the media vendors on time and in the correct format.

This step includes quality checks to ensure ads meet all specifications and will display correctly across all chosen platforms.

4. Monitoring campaign performance: After the ads go live, we continuously monitor their performance against the set KPIs.

We use advanced tracking and analytics tools to measure metrics like impressions, clicks, conversions, and ROI. This real-time monitoring allows us to identify any issues early and make necessary adjustments.

5. Optimization: Based on performance data, we make data-driven optimizations to improve campaign effectiveness.

This could involve reallocating some of your budget to higher-performing channels, adjusting ad placements, or tweaking creative elements.

Our goal is to ensure the campaign delivers the best possible results throughout its duration.

Case Study Break: Hurom

Hurom got good results from our influencer campaign:

  • 2.5 times increase in ROAS
  • 60% decline in cost per acquisition
  • 36% decrease in customer acquisition costs

And those results weren’t just about planning.

Executing the strategy is equally important.

Our media buying team worked closely with our creative strategists.

They analyzed how each UGC-powered ad performed, analyzing different variations in hooks, CTAs, and social proof.

The goal is to zero in on the best-performing recipe and type of creator to power up the UGC content strategy.

5 Media Buying and Planning Challenges [+ Our Best Solutions]

If you want to implement media buying and planning effectively, you must be aware of potential problems.

Let’s see the most common ones, plus our in-house solutions.

1. Ad Clutter and Audience Fragmentation

With so many ads competing for attention across multiple platforms, it's challenging to stand out and effectively reach a fragmented target market.

Our solution: We use advanced audience targeting and segmentation techniques to ensure your ads reach the right potential customers at the right time.

A perfect media plan cuts through the noise and maximizes engagement.

For example, inBeat Agency’s campaign for Soylent hired ten creators from ten different niches, like gaming, hiking, and outdoors.

They produced 50 reusable content assets that resulted in over 5 million impressions.


2. Budget Constraints

Allocating limited budgets effectively to achieve maximum ROI is a common challenge.

Our Solution: We conduct thorough market research and leverage industry insights to create cost-effective media plans.

We negotiate the best rates, use programmatic buying, and leverage influencer marketing. The point is to maximize your budget without compromising on reach and impact.

Pro tip: Follow your key campaign metrics consistently.

This free CPM calculator, for example, will help you compare the cost per thousand for different campaigns:

3. Rapidly Changing Media Landscape

The media landscape is constantly evolving, with new platforms and technologies emerging regularly.

Besides, the iOS-14 update made targeting and programmatic advertising tougher. Privacy updates are also increasingly difficult to deal with as an advertiser.

Our Solution: Our team aims to build a loyal community around your brand.

These people raise their hands for your products, so they’ll be easier to target.

At the same time, customer retention costs are 500% lower than customer acquisition costs.

4. Measuring Campaign Effectiveness

Accurately measuring the success of media campaigns and understanding the ROI can be difficult.

The stats are not great – to say the least.

Only 35% of companies measure their ROI, and 27% of them claim they don’t know how to do it.

Our Solution: We employ advanced analytics and tracking tools to monitor campaign performance in real-time.

Detailed reporting and data-driven insights allow us to make informed adjustments, so you can have a successful marketing campaign.

5. Maintaining Consistent Messaging

Ensuring a consistent brand message across multiple media channels can be complex. Especially if you’re using multiple influencers or content creators with different audiences and niches.

Our Solution: We use a solid creative brief template for all our influencers.

We coordinate closely with your creative and marketing teams to align all messaging with your brand’s voice and objectives.

Our integrated approach ensures consistency and coherence across all platforms, enhancing brand recognition and trust.

Here’s one of our influencer briefs below:

How to Use Media Planning and Buying Together: 5 Best Practices

1. Integrated Strategy Development

The key to successful media planning and buying is developing an integrated strategy that aligns both processes.

Best Practice: We begin by working closely with our clients to understand their business objectives, target audience, and budget.

By combining strategic planning with smart buying decisions, we ensure a cohesive approach that maximizes impact and ROI.

2. Data-Driven Decision-Making

Using data and analytics is crucial for both media planning and buying.

Best Practice: We leverage audience insights, market research, and performance metrics to inform our media plans and buying strategies.

This data-driven approach allows us to make informed decisions that enhance targeting accuracy and campaign effectiveness.

3. Optimized Media Mix

Selecting the right combination of media channels is essential for reaching the target audience effectively.

Best Practice: We analyze the strengths and weaknesses of various media channels and create a balanced media mix.

This ensures that our clients' messages reach their audience through the most effective platforms, whether it’s digital, print, TV, or radio.

4. Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment

Ongoing monitoring and optimization are vital to achieving the best results from media campaigns.

Best Practice: We continuously track campaign performance using advanced analytics tools.

Regularly reviewing key metrics and making necessary adjustments ensures that our clients' campaigns remain effective and responsive to changing conditions.

5. Collaborative Execution

Effective communication and collaboration between media planners, buyers, and creative teams are crucial.

Best Practice: We foster a collaborative environment where all stakeholders work together seamlessly.

We also encourage our influencers to share their unique perspectives. This ensures that the media plan is executed flawlessly, with consistent messaging and timely delivery across all channels.

Wrapping Up

This article took you through the processes of media planning and buying.

You now know what the concepts entail and how a solid paid media agency should blend these activities.

Plus, you now have a detailed plan to start both media buying and planning.

At the very least, you can use these steps to find a solid paid media agency that can do both.

So, remember that you can power your media strategy with influencers that you can find on our discovery platform.

You can use our free toolkit to monitor your advertising campaign.

And if you want a solid growth agency that will take care of your media efforts, let’s schedule a free strategy call.

We’ll deliver the same kinds of results you saw in our case studies above.

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