What Skills Make A Successful Media Buyer?

Posted on June 16, 2015 by Media Culture

Media buyers wear a lot of hats in order to get the job done. From understanding the media buying market to having the soft skills to negotiate with others, there’s a wide gamut of traits that media buyers need to develop in order to be successful.

What do media buyers do?

Media buyers plan, negotiate, buy and maintain media schedules. It looks simple when it’s written out like that, but media buying is an intricate business, and only getting finer-tuned as technology for advertising, media and analytics grows more complex. The process is also refined by the platform that is being used – radio, television and digital media buying programs may all look slightly different.

In addition to managing media buys and schedules, buyers will also keep their finger on the pulse of the market so they can make recommendations for new media opportunities. Based on feedback from clients, analytics and negotiations with outlets, they’ll need to adjust their approach to get better results for clients.

Doing this job successfully requires a number of different key skills. Here’s what to look for in a successful media buyer that can help any company leverage their advertising investment for specific business actions:


An effective media buyer has:

Strong negotiating skills

  • Ensuring the client is accessing the lowest rates is absolutely key. With a better rate for advertising, clients get more exposure, which leads to better results. Media buyers need to negotiate with networks and providers to seek out the right combination of exposure, target market and price per ad.

Strategic thinking capabilities

  • The media landscape is changing constantly, and plans need to change to meet them. Your media buyer can’t use the same plans they relied on five – or even two – years ago. Responding to the rapidly changing climate and developing a new strategic plan is an essential for any buyer. Look for a track record of their ability to adapt to new situations.

Efficient research skills to find what will work for target consumers

  • Each campaign has unique consumers with specific needs. From a certain time of day, ad length and overall marketing message, a media buyer needs to be able to understand what works for target consumers and craft campaigns that efficiently reach those audiences.

A skill for analysis and optimization

  • After results come in from campaigns, buyers should have the tools and know-how to analyze those results to make more strategic decisions in the future. The process of analyzing is continuous so it’s something that an excellent media buyer will be well versed in. It empowers them to understand what’s really going on through the course of a campaign and how to make improvements in the future.

An understanding of the complex landscape of media

  • Offline media like print ads, newspaper ads, radio and TV were complicated enough. Modern media buyers have to pair these offline formats with newer digital media forms. Although there are some major differences between the two groups, they need to work together for an effective media campaign. Media buyers need to understand the ins and outs of each, as well as how they can be effectively used together.

Strong relations with media outlets

  • Media buyers act as the go between for clients and media outlets that have space and time to share. Understanding clients’ needs and who they are trying to reach is important, but buyers also need to understand and have connections with media outlets. A media buyer who has taken time to develop these relationships in order to take advantage of fire sales, special programming, seasonality, new shows, cross-channel promotions and other opportunities is a valuable addition to any marketing team.

A mindset geared toward testing

  • Perpetually testing is the only way to ensure that a campaign is in a constant state of evolution and adaptation. Successful media buyers not only understand that testing is part of the process, but they look for opportunities to test and refine their processes throughout the course of a campaign.

An ongoing strategic planning process

  • Although every media campaign is different, there are elements that are the same within each successful one. Experienced media buyers use reliable processes that they can use again and again to get consistent results. These processes are used throughout the life of a campaign so that the strategies can be refined for better results.

Effective media buyers don’t learn these keys overnight

  • But over years of experience in the field. Media buyers that offer the best work know the market inside and out and have the strategic acumen to make smart decisions on behalf of their clients.

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