Media Buyer

  • Media Buyer

A skilled media buyer has eerie insight into your psyche; this person knows that if you are watching Mega Piranha at 2 a.m. you may also be interested in attending Star Wars: In Concert or playing Halo Reach. Before Facebook was tracking your web usage to suggest that you become a fan of Dove chocolates and romantic walks on the beach, these mind-readers had your likes and dislikes pegged.


Media buyers may specialize in select areas like print, radio, or television, or be responsible for planning and implementing strategies across all media platforms. The client provides the advertising art, film trailer, or radio commercial, and it is the buyer’s job to place the asset by purchasing print space or airtime. Those who specialize in entertainment industry clients must be intimately familiar with the genre’s core audience demographic and understand the strategic differences in advertising for a hip-hop concert tour or sci-fi horror flick versus a kitchen appliance; this requires a considerable amount of research and expertise. In planning buys for a campaign, this person has to consider the target audience and which media outlets will best reach interested consumers according to the budget and price per appearance. The goal is not always to cast the widest net possible, but rather to carefully select media that offers the most bang for the buck and to tailor a plan to the particular product. A $3 million Super Bowl ad reaches a lot of people, but if you were pushing The Piano, then you just blew your stash on 30 seconds that missed the target demographic. (They were in the other room watching the Sundance Channel.)

With the appropriate print publications, radio stations, and TV networks identified, the media buyer contacts the sales representatives to haggle on a price and negotiate specifics like duration of campaign and number of runs. This person is also responsible for tracking the direct response data and the effectiveness of the campaign, and following up to ensure that the buys are being implemented by the media outlet according to the contract. He or she will provide the client with regular detailed reports concerning the campaign, and make necessary changes to improve exposure and return on investment.

Skills & Education

A college degree is usually required; study of mass communications with a concentration in advertising or marketing is recommended. An education in entertainment business is also useful for those who desire to specialize in the film, television, and music industries. A media buyer must have excellent negotiating skills, as well as a firm understanding of market research practices and demographics. Courses in statistics and finance are helpful. To succeed in this field, you must be capable of cultivating positive working relationships with clients and sales associates, in addition to creatively planning advertising strategies.

What to Expect

Media buyers typically work for advertising agencies or for media-buying companies, which purchase print space and airtime to resell as packages to agencies. In-house positions also exist with film studios, record labels, and other entertainment companies. This is an upper-level position that will require previous experience in marketing and advertising. Most often, buyers begin as advertising assistants or work as sales reps for media outlets like magazines or television and radio stations.


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