What is the difference: Media Planner vs Media Buyer

Media planner vs media buyer

The messaging in marketing campaigns takes shape in creative, but that creative can’t be seen by consumers until it has a home in media. At scale, a company’s ad campaigns need to be carefully orchestrated across a variety of channels to reach a target audience wherever they might be living and browsing.

Which channels are right for each ad campaign? How do you navigate the advertising budget needed to purchase ad space on the channels serving your target audience? Who actually executes the purchases and how? This is where media planners and media buyers meet to make marketing campaigns thrive.

What is media planning?

At a high level, media planning is the act of strategically selecting what sort of media channels and formats to include in the execution of a marketing campaign. The process of media planning entails the decision of the locations, timelines and frequencies of media placements in which advertisements will be presented.

Media planners consider the characteristics of their ads, or creative, as well as the details of their campaign, such as budget, timing, audience targeting and more. Media planners also typically utilize market research to inform their strategy and set campaign goals.

The purpose of a strong media plan is to guide media buyers, who are often separate entities from media planners, when they buy media.

What is media buying?

Media buying is the act of purchasing media, or ad space, for the purpose of placing ads to engage with a targeted audience. Media buyers work from a media plan to purchase ad space on the various channels needed for an ad campaign. Similar to media planners, media buyers consider the timing, budget and target audiences for a given campaign. However, all of these details are typically provided to the media buyer by the media planner. Media buyers also usually work to optimize campaigns once they are in motion.

There is a special relationship between media buyers and media vendors that is often developed from years of experience in the industry. Media buyers rely on the knowledge of the complex media space and the vendors who sell the supply. This is why media buying agencies typically fulfill this role and utilize several media buying platforms for each campaign they support. Various media platforms offer different advantages and disadvantages for every campaign and its goals.

What is the difference between media planner and media buyer, and how is media planning different from media buying?

The two roles of media planner and media buyer are two halves of a whole when it comes to buying media for marketing campaigns. You can’t have one without the other, as a media planner’s work in developing a campaign’s media strategy cannot be achieved without a media buyer’s effort to execute that strategy by buying the media outlined in the plan. 

So, media planning is the foundation for media buying. They differ because the former exercise is purely strategic, while the latter is executional. 

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