Advertising is a complex business. Many years ago it was pretty simple. You got your message in the press and possibly on TV and radio and you would try and reach most, if not all of your audience, assuming they weren’t completely off-the-grid. But this has changed. The media landscape has exploded with a multitude of new channels, titles, stations, websites, influencers, mail options, messaging choices and outdoor possibilities. In South Africa alone it is said that there are over 2800 different media opportunities facing the advertiser at any one point.
The trick is to find the media that meets your needs and budget while delivering on your brand or marketing goals. The Ehrenberg-Bass Marketing Science Institute tells us that one of the primary reasons for brand growth is increasing Mental Availability amongst the target market. This essentially refers to top-of-mind brand awareness and achieving this is strategically difficult and financially expensive. Besides single-minded propositioning and engaging creative it takes great media planning and great media buying to makes this happen.
But what exactly are each of these specialisations about and what’s the difference between media planning and media buying?
Using an analogy it’s like planning a road trip. If one was planning to drive to Cape Town from Johannesburg the “planner” would devise the strategy including the route with various options for stopping, sight-seeing, overnighting and any other highlights to make the trip more enjoyable. Once the plan is in place a “buyer” is needed to choose the actual venues for refuelling, accommodation, cooler boxes and refreshments in the vehicle and so on. This is not too dissimilar to the media functions of planning (strategy) and buying.
The process of building the best mix of media options to reach the widest possible desired audience. The Planner also has sight of costs at a general level as the Planner needs to be cognisant of budgets. The Planner understands the way audiences engage with different media and how best the brand message will be conveyed, understood and internalised by people exposed to these media platforms. A planner will be able to give a client robust advice on when, where, why and how to advertise and will also make sure their suggestions work within a client’s budget and expectations.
What is media buying?
The Media Buyer’s responsibility is to take a media plan and execute it in the real world at the best possible rate and investment return. The Buyer will know where the best cost advantages lie, how to realise them and when to make substitutions without sacrificing overall campaign objectives. Following the process from booking an ad, placing it and then assessing its coverage and how well customers responded is what a buyer would focus on. A media buyer will also understand exactly which platforms will give you the biggest reach for the best price. Negotiating the best client specific rates and networking with those in the know is what a media buyer would specialise in.
Do the two co-exist or can they function separately?
Media planners and buyers work closely together. This is necessary because in the real-world media plans are very rarely executed without ongoing revision and amendments due to unforeseen events. If fact for online media it is critical that campaigns are reviewed on a daily basis and optimised to increase performance. Online targeting criteria need revisiting because the actual efficiency of targeting is frequently different to expectations. Because of this both planners and buyers need to revisit plans for online activity and rework them, almost on a daily basis to ensure that clients’ money is well spent and campaign objectives are optimised.
The same is generally true for legacy media. However if clients go direct to media owners and buy placements they have will have to build their own strategies and measure their own performance against that strategy.
Media planning and buying are two sides of the same coin. For effective and efficient media spend it is best that clients find deep expertise to guide and manage their campaigns.
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