Why your small business or nonprofit needs a media buyer

By Mark G. Auerbach

What is a media buyer, you might ask.

A media buyer consults with you and your graphic designer about your message, your audience, and your budget, and then negotiates your advertising purchases with the various outlets. They make sure that your ad gets to the outlet on time; they monitor whether your ad ran as scheduled, and help you with your payment schedules. Some advertising agencies offer media buying as one of their services. Many media buyers are independent of a specific agency or have an agency of their own.

My company provides media buying services to clients when we’re also handling their marketing and/or public relations services on a retainer or project basis. We develop the media plan, negotiate the best prices we can, do the advertising insertion orders, send them to the media outlet and graphic designer, and have the client pay the media source directly. Some media sources offer us commissions to purchase the ads. We pass those back to the client. We match the invoices to the tear sheets or affidavits of performance, and make sure that the designer delivers their ads on time. I personally like doing media buys, and always look forward to having that opportunity.

Most of our clients are nonprofits, so we look for the discounted rates that a nonprofit and/or charity might receive. We have good relationships with the advertising reps at the various newspapers, radio stations, and TV outlets. That rapport allows us to consider an ad rep’s recommendations for a particular client, and we act as the clearinghouse for media source and client.

I’ve learned that the advertising rates presented on a media company’s website or in a media kit are only starting points. All rates are negotiable. Sometimes, an ad rep or venue may offer bonuses–for frequency purchases, for hitting a dollar plateau, or for other considerations.

A good media buyer is fluent in print advertising – newspapers and magazines – as well as radio, TV, internet, and other types of advertising from billboards to bus signs. Some buy nationally. Some buy regionally. Ultimately, they should be able to deliver the largest relevant audience at the best possible price. And, they should be able to tell you how many people saw or heard your ad, along with who those people are.

Media buyers generally have cache with the media, since they purchase ads for many clients, and have a better rapport with the ad departments. That might mean better placement for your ad, preferential rates because your media buyer purchases in bulk, and better communication opportunities for you and the media source.

–Whether you use a media buyer or do it yourself, here are some essentials. Know how much money you have to spend on media buys after you’ve budgeted for design of an ad.

–Decide exactly what you’re advertising. Your business or service as an entity? A specific product? If you’re an attorney, are you showcasing a specialty, like real estate law or estate planning?

–Try to estimate your annual needs; then you may be able to get a discount for bulk purchases.

–Consider how you’ll pay for your ads. When you prepay an ad, sometimes you can get a discount. If you use a credit card that accumulates points or airline miles, you could be working your way to a trip. I use American Express whenever possible, and those Membership Rewards can go to purchase an upgrade from coach to business class to make work trips more tolerable, or to Starbucks cards.

Select your media buyer in the same way that you might select an ad agency or designer. Ask for recommendations. Interview them carefully.

–Do they speak your language, and are they clear and concise in their presentation?

–Do they listen to your concerns? If they’re only interested in getting your product out there before the largest audience, be concerned. You could spend a lot of money on a national ad buy and reach millions, but if you’re a small company in a small market, are you overpaying for the numbers? Let’s say you’re a hair stylist. How far will people realistically travel to use your services? Do you need to spend the money to reach beyond that radius? The local TV news might be great, but the neighborhood weekly might have better results.

–How will they measure your success?

And a couple of other thoughts…

–Don’t assume that your best possible consumer may like the same media choices that you do. When I worked as the director of a public radio underwriting program, some businesses wanted to sponsor particular programs that they liked. That’s charitable, but there were sometimes better programs for their specific markets.

–Don’t assume that the ad that reaches the largest numbers of eyes or ears is the best bet. Do you serve a niche market? If so, look for media that cater to those special interests that might have a smaller audience base. Those readers may be more inclined to purchase your product or service than a mass media outlet.

–Remember that the media landscape is changing. Social media has become potent in the last couple of years, and more and more people view their media on their apps and smart phones, or tablets instead of their laptops. Will your message reach them? At the same time, there is an audience that still prefers to hold a real newspaper in their hands, or listen to radio programming on a radio or watch TV on a set.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover