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Media buying is taking a commercial, or newspaper ad, or other sales message and getting it viewed by the intended audience. For example an advertisement for Centrum Silver (vitamins for senior citizens) would not do well in Teen Beat magazine (a magazine for teens). A Media buyer links the ad to the intended audience in order to make the ad effective. These ads are intended to sell a product and may be on TV, online, newspaper or magazine ads. The Media buyer negotiates price and placement of the ad for the advertisers.
They consider station formats, pricing rates, demographics, geographic, and psychographics relating to the advertiser's particular product or key performance indicator (KPI). All media inventory goes through phases of optimisation, which is dependent on budget, type of medium (radio, internet, TV, print etc.), target audience and targeting. Media buyers can purchase media inventory regionally or nationally. National media buyers might have to factor in considerations based on their particular geography.
Rates, demand of leads, space, and time, and state licenses vary by state. National media buyers need national media planning to generate national media marketing strategies and national media advertising that can be adaptable from area to area but also work on a national level.
There is an apparent distinction between general marketing media buyers and direct response media buyers (DRMB). General market media buyers enact or actualize media plans drawn up by media planners. They negotiate rates and create media schedules based on a media plan constructed by a media planner. Through the media planner, general market media buyers rely on published cost per point guides. An experienced DRMB knows which stations generate a specific quantity of response and knows within reason, the break even point of the expenditure versus the return. With that information, the DRMB is efficient in negotiating a functional rate and in purchasing media from the appropriate stations. The DRMB attaches unique phone numbers to each station they purchase media from and track the sales, and make adjustments to the media plan and schedule as necessary to optimize results. DRMB can be short-form or long-form, although long-form is becoming increasingly unpopular. With these differing methodologies, direct response marketing can be considered a specialized arena.
Media research planning can be done by media buyers as well as media specialists. Depending on product and service, Media Buyers and Media Specialists must do a fair amount of research to determine how best to spend the allotted budget. This includes research on the target audience and what type of medium will work best to reach the largest number of consumers with the most effective method. Media planners and media specialists have a vast array of media outlets at their disposal, both traditional media and new media. Traditional media would include radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, and out of home. New media might include satellite TV, cable TV, satellite radio, and internet. The internet offers a number of online media channels that have surfaced with the improvement of technology and the accessibility of the internet. Online Media can include social media, emails, search engines and referral links, web portals, banners, interactive games, and video clips. Media Planners and Specialists can pick and choose what and/or which combination of media is most appropriate and effective to achieve their goal, whether it is to make a sale, and/or to deliver a message or idea. They can also strategize and make use of product placements and Positioning. Inserting advertisements such as print ads in newspapers and magazines, buying impressions for advertisements on the internet, and airing commercials on the radio or TV, can be used by both Direct-response and remnant advertisers.
Prior to the late 1990s, media buying was generally carried out by the media department of an advertising agency. The split between creative agencies and media agencies is often referred to as "unbundling". In 1999, WPP Group created MindShare from the media departments of its two advertising networks, Ogilvy & Mather and J Walter Thompson, now JWT.
In 2003, after purchasing Young & Rubicam and Tempus, WPP further consolidated all of its media operations including media buying and media planning through the formation of GroupM, which is now the number one media investment management company in terms of billings. The other major media holdings include Omnicom's OMD, Publicis's Vivaki and ZenithOptimedia, Interpublic's Mediabrands, Dentsu Aegis Network's Aegis Media and Havas's Havas Media.
With the conglomeration of major marketing services holding companies and the movement among top executives from them during the Financial crisis of 2007–08, a number of small to midsize media buying agencies in the US have since been given equal opportunity to compete for media buying business once only considered serviceable by the largest of Advertising agencies.
- Online Advertising Research Tools – Alexa, comScore, Nielsen Online, Quantcast, SimilarWeb, Thalamus, SpyFu, SRDS, and Compete.
- Online Advertising Competitive Intelligence Tools – comScore, Integral Ad Science, MOAT, Adgooroo, Adbeat, Whatrunswhere, Keywordspy. 
- Demand-side Platforms – MediaMath, DataXu, Doubleclick Bid Manager, Turn, AppNexus, Adobe Media Optimizer, Rubicon Project.
- Offline Advertising Research Tools – comScore TV, Nielsen Media Research for TV Audience Measurement GRPs, Nielsen Audio for Radio Measurement (previously known as Arbitron), SRDS by Kantar Media for Print Advertising Ratecards.
- Account planning
- Advertising campaign
- Advertising management
- Advertising media
- Advertising media selection
- Ad tracking
- Advertising research
- Audience measurement
- Consumer behaviour
- Effective frequency
- Integrated marketing communications
- Magazine circulation
- Marketing communications
- Mass media
- National Readership Survey
- Newspaper circulation
- Nielsen Ratings
- Nielsen Audio
- Positioning (marketing)
- Projective techniques
- Promotional mix
- Reach (advertising)
- Higher Ed
- Ellis, Shelley. "Tools For Spying On Your Competitor's Display Ads". Marketingland. Marketingland. Retrieved 12 September 2015.