Paid advertising is a key part of every marketing strategy. As a marketer, you wonder how to get the most bang for your buck when buying ad space. In this post, we’ll explain how media buying works and give you tips to do it right.

What is Media Buying?

The term media buying refers to purchasing advertising space from a media channel. For instance, buying a time from a tv station, print space from a newspaper or magazine, or billboard signs.

Media buying in online marketing refers to purchasing advertising space in a blog or website, negotiating the price, and placement of ads.

So, What’s a Media Buyer in Marketing?

A media buyer is a person — usually a marketer—that is in charge of media buying for the company. Is someone whose job involves selecting and arranging payment to put advertisements on online channels at the most cost-effective rate.

Typically, media buying is done manually (direct) or with the help of technology tools (programmatic).

  • Direct buy: When media buyers negotiate ad inventory directly with publishers.
  • Programmatic buy: Media buyers use automated technology to buy ad placements.

According to eMarketer, 84.9% of digital ad spending belongs to programmatic buying today and is expected to rise to almost 90% by the end of 2021. So, direct media buying is in decline.

But which is best? There are advantages and disadvantages of both methods. While direct media buying is still used, the market is clearly going in the direction of programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising saves time and effort and allows for better targeting your audience. It offers real-time bidding, which gives advertisers the chance to get better deals for their ads.

Media Buyer in Marketing

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The State of Media Buying Statistics

According to Statista, in 2020, global programmatic ad spends reached $129 billion, and spending is expected to pass the $150 billion mark by the end of 2021. Let’s check

How is worldwide media buying evolving? Let’s check some mind-blowing statistics.

Programmatic display advertising will reach $150 billion by the end of 2021. 

Programmatic Display Advertising


  • 69.2% of all display advertising is bought through programmatic advertising
  • 18% of U.S companies surveyed moved the company’s programmatic buying completely in-house
  • 51% of U.S companies surveyed moved the company’s media buying partially to programmatic buying. 

The total digital ad spending  will reach $645.80 billion by 2024

Digital Ad Spending Worldwide


How Digital Media Buying Works

Digital Media Buying


Digital media buying or programmatic buying, buying ad impressions is automated. The negotiation step is conducted automatically in real-time through digital marketplaces. This automated buying structure has three main components:

Supply-side Platforms (SSP)

It is a software product designed to sell advertising space with the help of automation technology. Publishers use this software to sell their ad inventory to advertisers. The goal is to maximize the price of impressions for publishers. Examples of SSP include Google, Rubicon Project, AppNexus.

Demand-side Platforms (DSP)

Is the counter side of SSPs but from the advertiser side. Marketers use DSPs to bid on ad inventory and get ad impressions with the lowest price possible.

Examples of DSP:

  • Facebook Ads Manager
  • Rocket Fuel
  • Amazon
  • DoubleClick.

Ad Exchanges

In these marketplaces, advertisers and publishers buy or sell inventory via real-time bidding (RTB). The exchange works as a marketplace for advertisers and publishers to broker and auction ad space. Advertisers, marketers, and networks use the exchange to buy space for their ads. Publishers use the exchange to offer ad space for monetization.

Examples of ad exchanges:

  • DoubleClick
  • Microsoft Ad Exchange
  • Right Media Exchange
  • OpenX
  • App Nexus

Ad Networks

These marketplaces collect the ad inventory from publishers and sell it to advertisers. These intermediaries introduce the right publisher option to the right buyer. Usually matches suppliers and advertisers with the goal to maximize yield for both.

Ad networks work with real-time bidding but also are good options to sell remnant ad inventory.

Examples of ad networks:

Other options include private auctions, usually run by publishers which limit who can participate and selling ad inventory at a fixed rate per thousand impressions.

Learn more about the best ad networks of 2023.

Why Is Media Buying Important?

An effective media buying strategy can affect the bottom line of the company. It goes beyond the simple act of buying ad space. Selecting which channels will have the most impact on the audience while ensuring the advertiser pays the lowest possible costs is the ultimate goal of a good media buying strategy.

Ultimately, this enables companies to control the ad spending budget, and at the same time maximize conversions. By using programmatic advertising, the software takes all the hassle of negotiating with publishers, and automatically chooses the best ads for a publisher and the best space for advertisers.

What’s the Role of a Media Buyer?

Even with programmatic advertising, media buyers play an important role. A media buyer takes into account the target audience and marketing goals to find the ad type, channel, and site that maximizes the impact.

  1. Media buyers plan a media buying strategy according to the advertising strategy for the campaign.
  2. They select and buy the ad space at the best rates, keeping the budget under control.
  3. A media buyer’s job doesn’t end with buying the advertising space. They constantly analyze the data on the performance of the ads to optimize the ad-buying strategy.

Stages of the Media Buyer Process

Stages of the Media Buyer Process

Media buying consists of several steps that can be categorized into three key stages: Preparation, Execution, Optimization.

Stage #1: Preparation

This stage involves in-depth research and planning of the advertising strategy. The media buyer will take into account the target audience, the advertising budget, and the campaign goals to select the best channel where to buy the ad space.

Steps at this stage include:

  • Look at your target audience and decide how to reach it. 

Who are your ads intended for? What’s the demographics of your target audience? (age, gender, etc.). Where do they live? (geolocation), What interests them?.

Once you have your audience profile, try to find your target group for the specific campaign. Identify where to reach them. Are they active in social media? Which sites they likely frequent? Do they buy online? Where? Know what platforms and devices your target uses.

  • Look at your competitors

Where do they advertise? Which ad networks are they using? Check whom your direct competitors are targeting. Learning from the successes and failures of others save time and allows the advertiser to have an edge on their campaigns.

  • Define your media buying strategy

The media buyer should align the advertising to the campaign goals. If the target is on their mobiles when they search or use the product, mobile advertising can be the solution.

This involves choosing where to advertise and how. Should the buyer use one ad network or several? This will depend on the campaign strategy.

  • Plan the campaign execution

Allocate the budget according to the main goal (clicks, conversions, sign-ups, etc). Estimate how much is going to cost according to the pricing model you choose (Cost Per Mille, Cost Per Click, Cost Per Action). Plan all the marketing budget and account for unexpected expenses.

Stage #2: Campaign Execution

Here the media buyer should ensure the ads are appearing where they should, at the frequency they should, in front of the target audience, and in the right context.

Monitoring and tracking the progress is key to understand how the ads are performing. Look for metrics like customer engagement, number of conversions, or actions.

Stage #3: Optimization

Collect as much data as possible to analyze the effectiveness of the advertising space. Check if it generates as much revenue as expected. Analyze how the users reacted to the campaign and don’t be afraid to make changes.

Optimization should be an ongoing process, so monitor, analyze, test and repeat.



6 Tips to Do Media Buying Right to Get Results

Succeding in media buying is as much a matter of strategy as buying right. Here are some tips on media buying to get results.

1. Do your research

Analyze the factors that impact the success of the campaign. Check what are the ad rates in your industry, how much it cost ad placements in different sites for the size and type of the ads you plan to run.

2. Check the media where the ads will appear for relevance and context

3. Align the bidding to customer journey stages

4. Invest in highly targeted inventory

5. Stay on budget

Be careful when calculating the budget, calculate the overall budget according to the pricing models you chose. Keep in mind how to make the most of that budget while keeping the impact of the campaign. Allocate budget for premium locations where you can get more ROI for your ads.

6. Prepare for unforeseen purchases

Maybe you decided to run with one or two ad networks. Have an extra budget to account for unforeseen purchases. While you are working with these networks you may need to make changes to the campaign with requires more budget. Be prepared.

Media Buying Vs Media Planning

Media buying and planning are two different stages of processes. A media buyer focuses on getting the most impressions for the lowest cost. Media planning determines what channel is best for reaching the target audience. The media planner is the one behind the campaign strategy.

In larger corporations, media buyers’ and media planners’ jobs are carried on by different people. In smaller organizations, it is usually carried on by the same person.

How CodeFuel Can Help You as a Media Buyer?

Media buyers can optimize the revenue per each click and visit. Sometimes big names ad platforms are too generic in reach and offer a low ROI. Regardless of the platform you use, you can maximize the ad ROI with optimized landing pages that boost revenue across platforms and verticals.

CodeFuel search mediation partners with main search providers, you can deploy monetization pages on your own domain if you’re a publisher, or used the ready-to-go pages designed for different buying platforms. Start monetizing smart today with CodeFuel.