Media buying has been a pillar of the advertising industry for decades. Media buyers are crucial to helping brands secure relevant and impactful ad placements for their products and services—at the most competitive rates possible and across a multitude of carefully curated advertising channels.

As the world of marketing and advertising continues to undergo intense digital transformation, the role of digital media buyer has emerged. This new type of advertising professional has a similar mandate—to help brands establish and increase visibility in their markets while making the best use of their advertising dollars. However, their playing field is much larger and more complex.

Digital media buyers are essential to helping companies navigate the rapidly evolving world of digital advertising. They offer businesses two main benefits: expertise in delivering efficiency on media budgets, and additional cost savings realized through their relationships with media owners.

Core skills: numbers and negotiation

Traditionally, digital media buyers have worked in advertising and media agencies, however, increasing numbers of brands are bringing this role in-house. Wherever a digital media buyer resides, their core purpose remains the same: to achieve the highest advertising reach with the lowest budget.

It’s clear that digital media buyers need an aptitude for numbers to be successful, but they also need strong interpersonal skills in order to engage in negotiations with media owners and work on teams with media planners. The better a digital media buyer’s relationship with a media owner, the greater their chances at securing discounts, sponsorship opportunities, and other value-adds such as the opportunity to purchase properties with limited availability.

How media buying works

At a high level, the digital media buying process has three stages: pre-launch, campaign launch, and post-launch. In the first stage, digital media buyers identify their target audience and potential competitors, then develop a strategy and budget based on this information. At this stage, they also choose the media outlets where they’ll run their campaigns, and negotiate cost with the media owners. Now, they’re ready to execute the campaign.

While a campaign is live, digital media buyers work with advertising operations colleagues to ensure the campaign is being delivered properly and to track its results, adjusting any parameters as needed along the way. This stage of the process may also include responding to interactions with customers or competitors.

In the post-launch stage, digital media buyers work with ad ops again to collect and analyze the data from the campaign to inform future purchase decisions.

A typical day at the office

Digital media buyers usually begin their day by checking their inbox and responding to vendor sales emails. An important part of their role is to vet potential vendors and new technology solutions to ensure they’re always spending their company’s advertising dollars in the most efficient and impactful way. Once their vendor research is complete, digital media buyers will schedule calls with these vendors if their offerings look interesting. This also helps them stay on top of industry trends.

Meetings are a regular part of daily office life for digital media buyers. These usually consist of client-related updates, progress updates on testing new vendors or tactics, and planning and strategy sessions with account managers and ad ops teams. Digital media buyers also spend time educating and training other internal departments on digital trends, or meeting with external vendors to review the performance of their current campaigns.

Back at their desks, digital media buyers focus on planning and scheduling upcoming media buys across various digital channels. They assign KPIs and other objectives for performance and attribution to their planned campaigns. They also keep an eye on their current campaigns, reviewing the delivery and performance to ensure the campaigns are meeting daily goals and budget pacing.

Digital media buyers are also responsible for setting up new campaigns in their in-house demand-side platform. These can include display, video, native, and connected TV campaigns. As part of this process, they send vendors placing instructions, tags, and targeting details for outsourced campaigns.

While this role sees a lot of desk time, digital media buyers may meet with current and potential vendors in or out of the office. Vendors often plan outings for digital media buyers to attend, such as dinners, sporting events, or concerts in the spirit of partnership and securing future media spend.

A solid partner for advertisers

Working with digital media buyers helps advertisers stay up to date on trends to follow—for example, leveraging streaming media, which is surpassing traditional TV ad spend with no sign of stopping anytime soon. As streaming video and audio continue to grow in market share, digital media buyers can assist advertisers as they navigate this territory, to make smart decisions about how to reach audiences.

Digital media buyers also enable advertisers to outshine their competitors by informing them of media opportunities before their competitors can learn about and act on them. This is where strong relationships with media owners prove invaluable.

Finally, digital media buyers help advertisers maintain brand safety and protect against reputational damage. Digital media buyers have visibility to where ads are placed, and can ensure that they don’t run in inappropriate environments or contexts. Overall, having a solid relationship with digital media buyers allows advertisers to maximize their revenue.