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What is a Media Buy?

By Jane Harmon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A media buy is the purchase of advertising space in a media venue. Print ads in newspapers, 30 second spots on prime-time television, banner ads on websites -- each can be considered a buy. Selecting your media buy should be an occasion for you to do some serious introspection on what it is you are selling, who you think your target customers are, and where you are likely to reach them for the lowest cost.

If you are a major player with a huge advertising budget, your media buy of first choice will be television, of course. The next step is finding the television shows that appeal to the same demographic as your product or product line, having your ad agency develop commercials that appeal to that demographic, and purchasing your time. Smaller businesses make their buy in the local newspaper or regional magazines, or perhaps on their local television stations. Media buys on websites are usually priced by thousands of impressions, or appearances, with a number of different advertisers rotating through the same space.

For the small business, there are a number of low cost media buy opportunities that you should consider before spending your entire advertising budget on newspaper ads:

Local cable: Your local cable company inserts ads throughout the day into both network and cable programming. When you are watching a prime-time show and see an ad for the local restaurant, that is time that is sold locally and only reaches your viewing area. Local cable time varies considerably in cost depending on the time of day, the show's ratings and how wide a distribution you wish to purchase, since some cable companies cover a wide area. Thirty seconds on Sci-fi Channel repeats in the wee hours of the morning might cost as little as three dollars; midday on the Oprah show, considerably more.

Independent Web comics: If you are targeting a younger demographic, consider making your media buy on an independent web comic. These comics update several times a week, are the sole property of the cartoonist, and often have a very wide readership among people in their twenties and thirties. Some web comics have tens or hundreds of thousands of views a day. Developing banner or tower ads that appeal to a particular comic's readership can be worth hundreds or thousands of hits to your website, and such a media buy might be priced far under what you would pay at a more commercial site.

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Discussion Comments

By comfyshoes — On Feb 21, 2011

Latte31- I love Shari's Berries. They are the best. I wanted to add that there are media buying services that will select the appropriate mix of advertising media for your product or service.

It is really important to understand the cost per point which relates to the cost of reaching 1% of the market. This will give you a comparison on which media campaigns are more cost effective for you.

By latte31 — On Feb 20, 2011

Anon120899- I didn't know that. I think that radio media buying and advertising might work well for a small business because radio advertising is cheaper than television advertising and it reaches about 230 million people across the country which represents about 90% of Americans.

Media buying and planning in the radio market is determined by how well the demographics of a radio station or radio program fit the product or service that you are selling.

It is really important to learn the reach or the number of potential listeners of a station along with the frequency that your ad will play.

For example a company by the name of Shari’s Berris was relatively unknown until they started advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show which brought in about 20 million listeners daily.

This company went on to sell 50 million packages of chocolate dipped berries with this media buy. Now they are a household name thanks to great media buying and planning as well as offering a superior product.

By anon120899 — On Oct 22, 2010

Some media buys can be for specialty media or niche audiences like college campuses. Campus Media Group helps people advertise on campuses.

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