Digital Media Planning and Buying

Digital marketing in today’s world has become one of the most important ways to get your brand and business out there for your consumers to see. If you want your business to succeed you need to have your brand’s presence online as well as promote it according. This is done by using various online mediums such as search engines, websites, social media, email, and mobile apps. So how does this bring consumers to your product? Well, it’s done through a process of digital media planning, buying and selling.

What is Digital Media Planning and Buying?

Just like when print media was booming, advertisers had to buy space in the local newspapers in order to get their brand out there for their consumers to see. Even though this practice is still common even today, digital advertisements have become more popular as they provide much more benefits than the former, especially for smaller businesses. The term Digital media sales is defined as the selling of advertising space on various digital platforms, which includes websites, blogs, digital magazines, social media etc. basically it’s any medium online that reaches the audience.

This form of advertising has become popular since it allows advertisers to reach a great number of consumers for a lesser price, while publishers can maximize the money they make by selling ad space on their sites.

Many businesses opt for digital advertising as it’s not only cheaper but you can also measure how effective your ad actually is, whether it’s working and if not, then, change it accordingly. Unlike newspapers, where you pay to depend upon the space e.g. a banner ad would cost lesser than a full-page ad, in digital advertising you pay one specific price and your ad will be shown according. Also, digital advertising is much more beneficial for small businesses as they can spend according to their budget.

Getting back to the question, media planning and buying in digital marketing is a long process in which the buyer needs to carefully strategize and negotiate before actually buying the ad placement. During this process, the buyer also needs to keep in mind the product he wants to promote, the target audience and the end goals. The main goal here should be to maximize the revenues through the sale of digital advertising space. This can be done by creating effective campaigns.

Here is a brief intro to the whole planning and buying process!



As you can see in the above diagram, the process starts with planning. The planning phase involves a thorough audience research and this is the most important step in creating a successful campaign. Depending on your product you need to focus on a lot of things like deciding who your target audience is and how do they shift by medium? Once you’ve figured that out you will need to plan on how much you are actually willing to spend on your campaign and what percentage of that will be guaranteed and non-guaranteed inventory.


The next step in this process is buying your ad space. Once you’ve got your target audience and figured out your budget you will then go on to negotiate your rates and finally make the purchase. The buyer’s aim should be reaching the maximum target at a low cost and also be conducting real-time bidding which is when inventory is bought and sold on a per-impression basis. Buyers can gain access to the impressions across every channel like mobile, video, search, and social media. Your media plan is complete when every placement from every supplier is included in your campaign, including the time frame each placement will run.


Once the campaign is executed, the ad placements are sent to the server after which they will be shown to the targeted audience. The buyer-seller relationship continues to this step even after the buyer has taken place. This is in case there is any revision needed to be made in the order.


During this process, the team responsible for the campaign logs into the ad server and tracks the lists to the publishers and supplies pieces of creative through tagging the placements on the ad server.


Analysing is one of the most important steps in ensuring a successful campaign. In this, you can refer to the first party delivery data which is available from the publisher’s ad server and third party delivery data which is available from the agency’s ad server. You can analyze everything in the campaign from specific creatives to the campaign as a whole and even cross-campaign. You can also evaluate if your budget is being spent well during mid-campaign.


The final step to the media planning and buying process is reconciled. During this process, agencies and publishers compare all their delivery data, work, and other financials, and reconcile the differences. Final costs per time period are communicated to the billing system for Accounts Payable. This is done in order for cost savings and more efficient work process.

While the planning and buying process in the digital field has become relatively easier it didn’t always start off that way.

Before going further, first let’s take a look back at the history of Digital Advertising and how it has transformed over the years.

Digital advertising started back in 1994 with banner ads and advertisers had to pay an upfront cost to occupy the space for a set time period.

In 1995 began targeted ad placements. Advertisers could now target only a specific audience rather than placing their banner ads in any space available. Not only was target marketing introduced but along with it capping also hit the market. This process is basically knowing how many times a particular user is shown the banner ad.

In 1996, Doubleclick came into the picture. They were the first ever to introduce ROI tools for banner ad campaigns which enabled companies to track and analyze their ad performance. And with the introduction of D.A.R.T. (Dynamic Advertising Reporting & Targeting), it was not only possible for advertisers to track the ad performance but also change certain criteria’s mid-campaign.

1997 saw the rise and fall of popup ads. This is one of the most hated forms of digital advertising. While this type of ad was forced on users it didn’t get in real ROI’s and by the early 2000’s web browsers came up with blocking features for pop-ups.

From 1999 to 2006 digital marketing saw a lot of changes with the introduction of the first pay-for-placement search engine service which later evolved to pay per click. Then in 2000, Google introduced ad words to create a sponsored search experience that generated revenue without compromising the quality and relevancy of search results which brought about The Quality Score which is used even today.

In 2006, Facebook introduced ad space in order to reach out to the younger internet users after which other social media platforms like such as Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ adopted the same methods.

From 2010 to present advertisers started relying on native advertising. This method was made famous by Buzz Feed and Mashable when they presented advertisers a way to reach their audience through their articles and videos which looked less like an ad and more like a regular piece of content on the host’s website.  It has become a marketing trend as it produces much better results with its non-disruptive approach. Buzz Feed is the pioneer in this form of advertising, especially with their quizzes. One of their famous examples of native advertising was the quiz Which Donut Are You? This was a promo for Dunkin’ Donuts and even though it might sound stupid, it got a lot of consumers actually taking the test while promoting the brand inconspicuously.


So what are the benefits of Digital media buying and selling?

The world is changing as we know it and with the popularity of the internet ever increasing, advertising is no longer just a one-way street. Digital marketing has come to play a very important role in the consumer buying behavior. Consumers now use the net to research about products and services before actually buying it, they also use digital coupons, find local deals, call local business through digital ads using click-to-call capabilities. This form of media has created more interaction between buyers and sellers. It’s not only made it beneficial for advertisers by helping them track their ads success but also consumers by giving them exactly what they are searching for.

As compared to their counterparts like print advertising, digital sales popularity is just going to grow here on out as it’s become adaptable and consumer-centric. It caters to the consumers in the moment needs and desires unlike any other forms of advertising, and with the improvement of Google Adwords it doesn’t seem like this form of advertising is going to stop anytime soon.

Not only is digital media sales beneficial for advertisers but for publishers as well. It enables them to gain profits from their blogs, websites, digital magazines, and virtually any digital content by not only enhancing brand awareness and loyalty but also increasing sales.

What Does the Future Hold for Digital Media Planning, Buying and Selling?

As seen from the digital marketing history, this field is continuously coming up with more effective options for buyers and sellers. So we can expect a lot of changes by the year 2020. For starters, the line between digital and traditional marketing will continue to blur. We will also see the change in the automation of process and decisions driven by data, powered by machines. It will become the more all-inclusive “programmatic marketing,” where every marketing tool such as paid, owned or earned, across the customer lifecycle will be powered programmatically in one way or another. The buying and selling process will become more automated in the coming years.

Mobile has already outshined desktops as the 2nd mode of media consumption but there is still a huge gap in the time spent on mobile vs. ad spend on mobile. So in the years to come, we are going to see more marketing tactics to increase the mobile ad money.

The ads are also going to become more consumer-oriented, meaning it will be more personalized, targeted, and valuable.

We will also see a more centralized database that manages audience data, and stronger analytic capabilities, which in turn will help buyers and sellers in getting a more 360 view of their customer which will eventually then lead to an improvement in ROI and increase revenues.






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Digital Media Planning and Buying

9 thoughts on “Digital Media Planning and Buying

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