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What Can Make Media Buying and Planning Troublesome for You and How To Avoid It

Before diving right into the business of media buying specifics, let’s have a quick refresher of what media buying actually is. Media buying and planning involve the art of putting your ads in strategically chosen media showplaces and times so that they reach the widest range of your target audience possible using the least amount of resources on your behalf. Basically, it’s all about optimising between visibility, cost, and the nature of visibility offered. It’s highly analysis-driven. Did we call it an art? Well, since there’s so much analysis involved, we’d be much safer calling it an exact science.

In the past, media planning used to be easier, as there was less variety of media to choose from; your choices were limited to newspaper ads, maybe Broadway commercials, and branding on pickup trucks. However, with the advent of electronic media, there has been an explosion of media outlets that you could use to display your ads.  As the range of possibilities has expanded, so has the complexity of the practice. As a result, there are a lot of challenges that you as a media buyer or planner would have to undertake to make sure that you’ve invested in the right set of media outlets and optimised the portfolio as needed. Let’s look at some ways how you can avoid getting tangled up in the murky side of the business:

Never Compromise on Brand Safety

Brand safety is violated when your chosen media space also deals with purveyors of inappropriate content. It’s like finding your brand of teddy bears advertised right next to a video promoting ISIS. Obviously, things like these can severely damage your reputation. The ad environment matters enormously to the impact of your brand messaging. The best way to escape this is by picking outlets with the minimum number of layers; lesser the layers of branding, the less likely your brand message will be corrupted with other messages. It’s a good idea to have a look at published whitelists and blacklists. This can help you further pinpoint which outlets to buy and which to sell.

Learn to Avoid Ad Fraud

As automated programmatic advertising grows exponentially, an unfortunate consequence is the proliferation of ad fraud. As the process is automated, the customer doesn’t know where the ad will appear. The rule of thumb is, the less you pay, the riskier is the ad inventory sold to you. The best way to combat this is to make sure that even for low-cost, cost-per-click campaigns, you use standard, verified domains listed in ads.txt. If the seller isn’t offering you verified media options (by ads.txt), don’t accept it. Don’t be fooled by the ludicrously cheap prices that they offer. Go for value.

Do as Much Media Buying In-House as Possible

There are lots of obvious advantages to bringing all of your media buying activities inhouse. For instance, you have enhanced budgetary control, and since you’re operating with people who almost have the same business interests as you, you’re likely to shave off another layer of mystery.

The biggest advantage is that you have a better overall product; since the team is on your side, they are more dedicated. And since better communication is almost a given, you have an overall sound campaign.

Keep Black Boxes on the Opposite Side of the Road

The rise of the infamous “black box” is lamentable. In the name of confidentiality and privacy, it took away buyer transparency and replaced it with dud investment crap. But the good thing is it’s all about to fade away. Regulatory firms have started mushrooming up, which gives these black boxes a fair, third-party rating. Since most of these black boxes would be caught soon by these agencies, it’s only a matter of time before they disappear off the market. Also, the renewed culture of transparency-focused business is killing these shadowy players. Agencies that say something and then do something else entirely are being outed in droves. Control is coming back to the clients.

In the same vein, as we’re talking about control, one of the best options is to invest in media options that are safest. Any media post that can be shared with only a limited number of ad clients is a good space, as it gives more control to your firm. Some high visibility media options would be advertising on transport trucks, banners on highways which are prone to traffic jams, or the front page of a nationally circulated newspaper.

Slacking off at Knowing the Latest Market Trends

As mentioned earlier, advertising has increased massively in terms of scope and effect. This isn’t to say that all advertising niches have grown; methods like cold-calling and correspondence through snail mail have largely died off due to a low ROI. The focus is on alternative options, like social media, blogs, or branding on trucks. As consumer markets evolve, so do their interests. Whichever media holds the most attention is the best one to invest in, and this keeps changing. Hence, it’s imperative that you keep an eye out for future market trends.

Keeping Clients Satisfied

This is another life-saving skill that every good media planning agency worth their salt has. Learning to gauge what the client expects from you and telling them exactly how much you actually deliver not only increase the reputation of your firm as honest and upright, but also take the load off your shoulders and let you keep your reputation intact.

Defining the Target Audience Precisely

As a media planner, if your target audience is well-defined, you have a specific framework of assumptions you can use to further develop your strategy. Make sure that you put your ads in a place where people actually bother to read them; the message must reach out. Good data-driven analysis can help a lot here.


Media buying and planning involves lots of correlational factors before deciding the perfect portfolio for each client. Admittedly, in this day and age, it’s largely data driven, but there are still some time-tested classic options, like newspaper front-page ads, advertising on trucks, and the like. It’s a matter of experience too – the more time you spend managing the portfolio, the better your skills are going to get.

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