A Beginner’s Guide to Media Planning and Buying with Steps, Scope, Importance & Examples

Updated on: Jun 26, 2021

If you have ever been confused about Media Planning as a concept, you have stumbled into the right blog!

Let’s take Mcdonald’s as an example. You must have come across multiple McDonald’s billboards while driving on roads. Take a look below if you haven’t seen them. 

Media Planning - McDonald's Example

What McDonald’s did brilliantly was placed such billboards to give directions to the travelers to the nearest McDonald store. And these creative directions on the billboard were formed in such a way, that they fulfilled the McDonald’s logo.

The communication on the ad was so creative and eye-catchy because of their brand colors, Red and Yellow which also make it easy for people to resonate with McDonald’s. While the communication on such ads is usually well thought out, their placement is what makes the campaigns a success. If you came across the directions while surfing Instagram, it wouldn’t make any sense since you’re not driving. 

This campaign is the best example of media planning used correctly.

For the successful execution of an advertising campaign, a company’s Creative Strategy and Media Strategy need to go hand in hand. 

Not keeping this in mind will simply lead to you showing your ads to people who have never or might never show interest in the product or service you have to offer. The ads have to be designed and placed strategically in front of the right audiences, and that is what Media planning and Media Buying are all about.

Also Check Out: Tips to Choose the Right Social Media Platform for Your Business

But, what exactly is meant by Media Planning?

Simply put, Media Planning is the process of identifying and selecting the right media outlets.  Media Planning helps in deciding whether you should opt for online advertising through Youtube or Facebook or traditional advertising like newspapers or television. Media Planning also helps in deciding the kind of content that should go out to a particular audience. 

It is nothing but the proposed Media Strategy that when executed can yield the most optimum results. Being able to choose the right channels for a particular campaign is one of the most crucial elements of Media Planning. 

Let’s take a look at this media planning example.

Say you have a brand that sells custom-made handbags online. Now, where do you think your ads would perform better: on a formal and professional platform like Linkedin or creative platforms like Pinterest or Instagram? 

Well, the answer is pretty obvious: Instagram. LinkedIn is primarily a B2B platform whereas Instagram or Pinterest are more consumer-friendly. So, running Brand Awareness Ads on a platform like Linkedin can be a waste of marketing efforts and it may even lead to poor return on investments. 

Media Planning is that component of digital marketing that’s going to help you decide which product or service should be marketed on which platform. 

What is Media Buying?

Media Buying is the process of buying media placements for advertising across several channels. Whether it is on TV, in publications, on the radio, or on other websites alike. Achieving the highest reach at the lowest possible cost is the primary objective of media buying.

Negotiating the price of media on behalf of their client is one of the many skills that Media Buyers possess. Media Buying usually starts where Media Planning ends. However, at times buyers can also act as planners. It is a Media Buyer’s responsibility to find the best vendors in line with the media plan.

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Difference between Media Planning and Media Buying

Let’s Understand this through an Analogy

Let’s say your mother instructs you to go and purchase vegetables from the nearest supermarket. Ideally, she would send you out with a list of vegetables, which you would then use to purchase them one after another. While doing so you would also end up negotiating the price of each vegetable with the vendor to get them at a cheap rate.

Now let’s try to look at this scenario in an ad agency setting. Your mother is essentially doing what a Media Planner would do by sending you out with a list of groceries. Which makes you the Media Buyer as you would be the one purchasing them. Lastly, the groceries you would have to negotiate for and eventually buy are the various Media Placements picked to advertise on.

Media Planning vs Media Buying

A media planner develops the plan. A media buyer executes the plan. They work in conjunction to ensure that the content is delivered to the right people in the right places and at the right times.

Having significant knowledge of the platforms used to distribute content — and how much it costs to use those platforms is crucial to Media Buying. In most cases, a media buyer is assigned a budget once the media plan is developed.

Role & Importance of Media Planning

When carrying out any major activity, Planning for it is the first thing you would do before executing it. A Plan gives the activity a sense of direction. 

Similarly, Media Planning is usually the first stage in the execution of an advertising campaign. It is the blueprint used by advertising agencies alike to execute their Media Strategy.

Media Planning thus helps with the following things:-

1. Ensures Best Utilisation of Resources:

It is no secret that Advertising involves huge costs. Media planning helps advertisers use available resources in the most optimum manner.

Media Planning involves the selection of a combination of media, for a period of time. This helps the advertiser in communicating the advertising message to the largest target audience at the lowest possible cost. In the absence of media planning, the advertiser may select costly media which may not have good coverage of the target audience.

2.  Achievement of Advertising Objectives:

Media planning is designed for the purpose of achieving the marketing and advertising objectives of the organization. Media planning includes all such decisions like selecting appropriate media and deciding the scheduling of advertisements. 

These decisions guide the organization in achieving advertising objectives, i.e. to communicate the message to the target audience and thus to promote sales. 

3. Selection of Appropriate Media:

While selecting media the advertiser ensures that selected media matches with the features of the target audience.

For instance:-

  • If our target audience is teenagers, then Television and Digital Platforms will be appropriate media; 
  • If the target audience is literate, then print media can be selected; 
  • If the target audience is a specific professional group, then professional journals and magazines will be appropriate media. And so on

4. Allocation of Advertising Budgets:

Media planning helps to decide the amount to be allocated to different media. It helps the advertising manager in allocating the ad budget among different media types in an optimized manner.

5. Ensures Appropriate Timing of Advertising:

Advertising can ensure the best results only when ads are shown at the right time. Media planning includes Media Scheduling i.e. it decides the time and space of advertisement in media. It decides the month, day, and time of advertisement. 

It ensures that advertisement is shown more frequently in seasonal months and less frequently in off-season months. 

It also ensures the most appropriate time to show the ads to the target audience e.g. if the ad is for school-going kids, it is not shown in the morning or before noon.

6. Guides future decisions based on past performance:

Media planning helps in exercising control over media.

In a Media Plan, some standards of performance are fixed. For instance, advertisers can estimate performance based on Historical Data or by analyzing the performance of their competitor’s campaigns.

Such estimates help in evaluating the effectiveness of media, i.e. if actual coverage is in accordance with the estimates or not. If it is not, advertising managers can think of some other media type/media vehicle for their future campaigns. 

Which Components are included in a Media Plan? 

Making a Media Plan without first taking into account its various components will make the entire process of Media Planning futile.

Here are a checklist of components that serves as a foundation for the plan and should take into account the following things:

i) Audience: Who is the message targeting? Why is the message relevant to them? How is the message serving them?

ii) Marketing budget: How much is available to spend on delivering the message?

iii) Conversion goals: What action should the message encourage the audience to take? How will that action support the strategy?

iv) Definition of success: What key performance indicators should be tracked? How do they support the strategy? How will they be measured and reported? What is the anticipated return on investment?

v) Message frequency: How often should the message be shared? How much is too much?

vi) Message reach: How many people should receive the message? Where do they live? Is the messaging platform scalable? 

The Forms of Media

In traditional and digital media, efforts to spread messaging can be categorized as:-

Owned media: These consist of owned original assets, such as blog posts and videos, published directly on platforms owned and operated by the organization attempting to spread the message. 

Earned media: These are assets that share the organization’s message but are created by separate parties, such as news stories or profiles in a newspaper or online news site. 

Paid media: These are paid assets associated with ad spending, such as social media advertisements, paid search ads, paid commercials on TV or radio, or the paid placement of an asset like a blog post on a news website.

The type of media used is just one of many components that determine a media plan’s potential effectiveness.

How do you develop a Media Plan? 

Let’s discuss the steps in media planning.

1. Start With Understanding Your Goals:

Whether your goal is to increase brand awareness, drive conversion rates for form sign-ups on your website, make sure you are clear about how you will go about achieving it.

Ensure that your goals are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. 

SMART goals help the development of your media strategy in terms of drawing in new prospects, acquiring more customers, or retargeting leads that slipped away the first time.

2. Define Your Audience:

There are endless reachable users available, but knowing which ones are the best for your specific campaign is key. Knowing who to reach with your media plan starts with defining your target audience.

Always consider the following when building the target audience for your campaign:

  • Campaign type – Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C)
  • Demographics – age, gender, ethnicity, income, occupation, etc.
  • Interests – intent to purchase, in-market
  • Media Habits – preferred media platforms to engage (desktop, mobile, native, etc.)
  • Once you have determined your ideal consumer, then you can build an accurate audience with the people who are in-market for the product or service you sell and are most likely to respond to your ads.

3. Campaign Details:

Other campaign details that must be considered are:-

  • The Duration of the campaign
  • The Budget allotted to the campaign, and
  • The Media Channels used to reach your target audience. Based on your campaign goals (i.e. brand awareness or conversions) and your budget. 

4. Build Your Media Plan:

A media plan will include details such as:-

  • Specific media channels best for message delivery, 
  • The number of impressions, 
  • The cost per million clicks and so on.

Your campaign will run for a period of time and can be delivered across desktop, native, mobile, and email.

5. Measure Your Success:

Planners either estimate the success of their campaigns before execution or measure its success post-execution or after the campaign ends.

This way, marketers can understand what works best and what drives the most engagement and revenue to optimize the existing campaign and maximize the success of future campaigns.

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Scope Of Media Planning and Buying in 2022

Over the next decade, Media Planner positions are expected to grow faster than average. With more and more mediums becoming available, the savvy media planner needs to know how to distinguish the best format for their client. 

Media planners possess good communication skills, creativity, and problem-solving ability. Staying updated with the newest technology and using it to your customer’s advantage are fundamental to success. 

Media planners must also know to keep in tune with the culture as it ages and changes values. Success in small projects will lead to bigger ones, and success in these endeavors can lead to supervisory positions.

Media Planning Jobs 

Most media planners start out at a junior level, by assisting senior planners in big projects or taking on smaller tasks under their supervision.  Young media planners find themselves responsible for doing most of the legwork, especially if employed by a smaller firm.

Media planners with five years of experience take on bigger projects. They usually oversee one or more assistant planners. Some media planners also take on the added responsibility of becoming media buyers, which helps them in becoming more marketable.

With ten years of experience, a senior media planner may be called upon to take on larger projects with prestigious national clients. Media planners with this level of experience either move to higher positions in the agency, while others may start their own small firms.

Thus, if you wish to learn more about media planning and buying and pursue a career in it, we have something for you to get started! Register for IIDE’s Online Media Planning Course and Learn how to create a plan, select media platforms, and set your budget for high-impact advertising campaigns. 

Now, if you have managed to reach the end of this blog, firstly, kudos to you! This blog should have given you a basic idea of what Media Planning and Media Buying is all about. They are the two main pillars of a successful Media Strategy. 

To quickly summarize, Media Planning is the first step. Based on the strategies and conclusions determined by this team, media buyers execute the media plan – placing the agreed-upon ads on the appropriate channels. 

If you’re interested in learning digital marketing as well or know someone who would like to, check this Online Digital Marketing Course in India. And for the benefit of our readers, we have a free counseling session for you – get in touch with us at [email protected] to avail of it. 

We hope that this blog helped you demystify the concept of Media Planning and Buying, if you have any questions or insights of your own, feel free to drop them in the comments below!

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Meherzad Karanjia

Ex Chief Learning Officer, IIDE

He has over 19 years of experience in the Digital Marketing and Design space. He is someone who understands all the elements of the Digital gamut ranging from User Experience, Graphics Design, SEO, SEM, Analytics, Media Planning.....[Read full bio]


  1. Simran Maharjan

    This blog serves as a great media planning and buying beginners guide. It’s helpful for beginners.

  2. Habiba Jalaluddin Ansari

    I was wondering about media planning courses recently, and buying beginners guide. but still confused. Should i really invest my time here.

  3. Habiba Jalaluddin Ansari

    I am thinking about media planning and buying beginners guide. Guys, suggest if this is a good decision or not


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