March 17, 2023
March 17, 2023

What is Media Buying and How Does it Work? (2023)

Standing out in today’s online advertising universe is a feat that every business finds challenging, from large corporations to the smallest mom-and-pop operation. That’s why a fundamental understanding of media buying is important. (For the purposes of this blog post, we’re talking about online media buying, not TV, radio, and other legacy media.)

By using data and technology to identify the most appropriate media channels and ad placements for reaching a desired audience, media buying addresses the challenge of efficiently and effectively reaching a target audience. And by optimizing the media buying process, you can achieve favorable outcomes within the confines of your budget.

What Is Media Buying?

Media buying is the process of purchasing advertising space on various platforms such as social media, search engines, and websites. It allows small and medium-size brands to target specific audiences and maximize their advertising budget by optimizing their ad placements for the best possible results. 

Media buying also allows businesses to access a wide range of ad formats and data analytics, enabling them to measure and refine their campaigns for maximum effectiveness. By leveraging media buying, businesses can compete with larger businesses and reach their target audience more effectively.

Social media platforms in particular have become increasingly popular over the years, offering businesses a powerful opportunity to connect with their target audience, build brand awareness, and drive conversions. Some reasons why business owners should consider social media as a key platform for media buying:

  • Wide reach: Social media platforms like Snapchat have millions of active users, making them ideal for businesses looking to reach a large audience (in Snapchat’s case, younger audiences in particular). By using social media for media buying, businesses can access a wider range of customers than they’d be able to through traditional advertising methods.

  • Targeted advertising: Social media platforms allow businesses to target their advertising to specific audiences based on factors such as demographics, location, interests, and behaviors. This enables businesses to deliver their messages to the right people, increasing the chances of generating a response.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Social media advertising is generally more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods. By using social media for media buying, businesses can reach a wider audience while staying within their budget.

  • Customizable ad formats: Social platforms offer a wide range of customizable ad formats, including images, videos, carousels, and stories — enabling businesses to create highly engaging and interactive ads that capture the attention of their target audience and generate a response.

  • Measurable results: Social media platforms offer a wide range of analytics tools that allow businesses to measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns, then use that insight to refine their campaigns over time and improve their results.

What’s the Difference Between Media Buying and Media Planning?

All media buying is preceded by media planning. To provide some process context, media planning and media buying are two interrelated but distinct aspects of advertising. Media planning involves creating a strategy for reaching the target audience through media channels, while media buying involves the actual purchase and placement of advertising space in selected media outlets.

Obviously, planning comes first: the process of identifying a target audience, defining advertising goals, and selecting the most appropriate media channels to reach that audience. Conducting research on the audience, the competition, and the media landscape is a crucial component in this phase, as it determines which channels are most effective for reaching a target audience. To properly develop a strategy, media planners also set goals for the campaign, establish a budget, and develop a media plan that outlines the media channels, ad formats, and placement strategies to be used.

Media buying, on the other hand, is the process of actually purchasing and placing the advertising in selected media outlets. This includes negotiating prices, selecting the appropriate ad format, and optimizing ad placements for the best results. Media buyers use the media plan developed by the media planner to make decisions on which media outlets to purchase advertising space, what formats to use, and how to place the ads for maximum exposure and effectiveness.

Without proper media planning, media buying can become a haphazard process, resulting in wasted resources and ineffective advertising. And without effective media buying, the media plan may not reach its full potential, resulting in a campaign that falls short of its goals. By leveraging both media planning and media buying, businesses can maximize the effectiveness of their online advertising campaigns and achieve their advertising goals.

Why Media Buying Is Important

In today’s business world, a solid understanding of media buying and its benefits is paramount for any brand that advertises online and expects results. Through media buying, a business is able to effectively and efficiently:

  • Create brand awareness and increase their visibility by remaining top-of-mind with their target audience.

  • Promote their products or services.

  • Reach their target audience.

  • Be more strategic and targeted in their advertising efforts.

  • Track and analyze the performance of their advertising campaigns, which enables them to refine their advertising strategies and achieve better results.

  • Optimize their advertising spend and maximize their return on investment.

  • Stay consistently competitive.

How Digital Media Buying Works

The digital media buying process and the development of a strategy to guide execution involves working with various vendors and publishers to negotiate the best possible rates, target the desired audience, and optimize the performance of the campaigns. Here’s how it works, step by step:

  1. Define your target audience: Before launching any social media advertising campaign, define your target audience utilizing demographics, interests, behaviors, and location. Defining your target audience helps you create more effective ads and get them in front of the right people.

  2. Set goals and objectives: Set clear goals and objectives for your social media campaign, including identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) such as click-through rates, conversions, and cost per acquisition. By setting clear goals, you can better measure the success of your campaigns and make adjustments as needed. 

  3. Determine your budget: Once your target audience and goals have been defined, decide on how much you want to invest in your campaign. Your budget should take into account the cost of ad creation, media buying, and management, as well as factors such as the size of your target audience, the level of competition, and the desired reach and frequency.

  4. Choose the right social media platform: Carefully consider which social media platform is most appropriate for your target audience and objectives. Different social media platforms offer different types of advertising formats, targeting capabilities, and audience demographics. Again, you should choose a platform that best aligns with your target audience and advertising goals.

  5. Develop your ad creative: Ad creative should be designed to capture the attention of your target audience and generate a response. So once you’ve selected the appropriate ad format, integrate compelling visuals and messaging and incorporate a clear call-to-action.

  6. Launch and optimize your campaign: Once your campaign has launched, monitor the performance of your ads and make adjustments as needed. This includes adjusting targeting parameters, adjusting ad creative, and modifying bids to improve performance and achieve your desired goals.

  7. Analyze the results: During and after your campaign, be sure to analyze the results to determine the success of yourcampaign. By consistently and frequently analyzing your results, you can refine your social media advertising strategy as it proceeds while collecting insight to inform your future campaigns.

Media Buying Trends

To remain competitive and realize the best outcomes through your media buying efforts and investment, make a point of monitoring the trends that are constantly evolving as technology advances and new opportunities arise. Current trends worth paying close attention to include:

  • Programmatic advertising: Programmatic advertising is the process of purchasing and optimizing digital advertising using automated systems and algorithms. This trend has been growing rapidly in recent years as businesses look for more efficient and effective ways to target their audiences and reach their advertising goals.

  • Social media advertising: As discussed in a previous blog, social media advertising has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to reach their target audiences. Platforms like Snapchats offer advanced targeting options, which allow businesses to reach specific demographics, interests, and behaviors.

  • Mobile advertising: With the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, mobile advertising  continues its popularity trajectory, allowing businesses to reach their target audience on the go and at any time.

  • Video advertising: With the rise of streaming services and online video content, businesses can effectively target their audiences with video ads on a variety of platforms, increasing engagement with their target audience and creating brand awareness

  • Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing, which involves partnering with social media influencers to promote products or services, has become popular because it allows businesses to tap into the influencer's audience and leverage their credibility and trust with their followers.

  • Interactive advertising: Interactive advertising is a trend that allows businesses to engage their target audience through interactive content, including interactive ads, quizzes, games, and more.

  • Voice search advertising: With the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants, this trend enables businesses to optimize their advertising for voice search queries and reach their target audience through voice search platforms.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) in media buying: AI is being increasingly used in media buying to improve targeting, optimize ad delivery, and personalize ad content. This trend has the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of media buying and enable businesses to achieve better results.

Buying Social Media Ads on Snapchat

Snapchat offers a variety of targeting options and ad formats to help businesses like yours reach their advertising goals and engage with their target audiences. Follow these steps to launch your media buying experience on Snapchat:

  1. Set up an account: Create your Public Profile, then your business account through Snapchat Ads Manager (the platform for managing Snapchat advertising campaigns).

  2. Choose your objective: Based on which stage of the Snapchat marketing funnel aligns with your business goals, select your objective — awareness, lead generation, online sales, or app installs — to establish the foundation of your campaign. 

  3. Define your target audience: Snapchat offers a variety of targeting options, including age, gender, location, interests, and behaviors. You can also create custom audiences based on your existing customer data.

  4. Set your budget and bidding strategy: With Snapchat Ads, you can set a daily budget and bidding strategy that you control from start to finish. Bidding options include cost per impression (CPM), cost per click (CPC), and cost per view (CPV).

  5. Choose your ad format and create your ad content: Snapchat offers a variety of ad formats, including Snap Ads, Story Ads, Collection Ads, and more. Each format has different specifications and targeting options, so it's important to choose the one that best fits your advertising goals. Once you’ve decided, use Snapchat's ad creation tools or upload your own ad creative. Ad content can include images, videos, and other interactive elements.

  6. Launch your ad campaign: Once your ad content is created and your targeting and budget are set, you’re ready to launch your Snapchat ad campaign. Snapchat offers real-time ad performance metrics, so be sure to monitor your campaigns so you can make adjustments as needed.

Get started today!

1 Source: “How to Create a Snapchat Business Account (+5 Expert Tips to Get Started)”, July 28, 2021, Stephanie Heitman, ([](
2 Source: “174 Social Media Statistics & Facts That Just Might Blow Your Mind”, August 31, 2021, Stephanie Heitman, ([](