The Ultimate Guide to DIY Media Buying

by    |    Sep 26, 2018    |       3 min read

As the digitalization of marketing trends continues to increase, it seems everyone is out to buy their own piece of media exposure in the form of advertising. While it may seem daunting from the outside, there is nothing overly difficult to grasp about media buying. With so many people taking part in it, the do-it-yourself approach seems more and more likely. That is the main question here: is the DIY option viable? Absolutely, if you get all the pieces right. It’s like building a Lego Death Star and finding out you actually covered that problematic thermal exhaust port. As usual, we are here to help.

Identify and Research Your Target Audience and Market

In media buying 101, you need to know the people you are intent on reaching and what your target market is. It helps to create a buyer’s persona, which is a profile that reflects and addresses the needs of the audience you are trying to reach. Once you make a positive ID, so to speak, doing some market research is in order.

It’s all about the details here, such as demographics and geos that can help you in selecting the right traffic. Focusing on certain details before picking the vertical(s) you want to go for will help you avoid bumps on the road later on. Then, you move on to more specific characteristics like behavior, for instance. Not every audience is hell-bent on seeing your offer nor willing to act on it. If a visitor is checking out their LinkedIn profile, chances are its work related, so there’s a high probability your ad might not have a strong appeal. This again depends on profile-specific traits like job category, interests, education and so on. Facebook, on the other hand, is more of a relaxing and leisurely place, where some people are generally less interested in going outside their proverbial comfort zone. Even so, it’s a market that will get you through as long as you cater to the relevant audience.

Competitor research is also a factor here, as knowing who they are targeting, as well as things like where they are buying media or placing their ads can help you get a better idea of what they deem effective or not.

Direct Buy or Ad Network?

When the time comes to buy traffic, you have two options:

  • Direct buy
  • Ad networks

Just like in the ad network vs. ad exchange debate, each has its pros and cons, which we’ll highlight.

Buying traffic directly takes time, as you need to contact people responsible for websites that interest you, be it a website owner or a company. Your bargaining skills come into play here as the first proposed price is rarely the one to go with. You also need some data about the website’s performance to make the best possible offer on your side as direct buy means paying for both high and low-quality traffic together.

With that in mind, the price you are willing to pay can be significantly lower than what some (not all) ad networks charge. Still, that largely depends on the website’s performance and general online standing: On top of that, you are using websites that are directly relatable to the offer you are advertising, which improves the quality of your traffic. Targeting the ads to a specific website also cuts out the middleman (third-party network) and retains your right to know where your ads are being shown. Hence, you can adjust your offer to the website layout to make it more appealing and increase the chances of conversions. The problem is, there is little optimization beyond that and with the spot booked for a long(er) period, there is always a prevailing risk of amassing losses.

Direct buy is great for specific exposure, like offering a vehicle maintenance product on an Autocar website, for example. Buying ad space through a third-party network differs in more than a few ways. Namely, the competition is much bigger here, as you are not the only one with the eye on the prize. The higher the bid, the better your position is, which translates to more impressions and better quality traffic. As a result, dealing with ad networks means finding the right balance between the price you pay and the performance of your offer. More importantly, there are different pricing methods that revolve around CPA advertising, which adds much-needed flexibility in allocating your budget.

As a media buyer, this flexibility allows you to be more efficient in targeting and especially in optimizing your campaigns, stopping or even pausing those that aren’t yielding the results you want while focusing on the profitable ones. The technology behind ad networks allows a more effective media buying process that can easily reach much larger audiences.

Things to Consider

What is the better choice of the two ultimately depends on your needs? If you are in a niche that has a couple of sure-fire winning websites, then direct buy may be the better option. You get a highly relevant audience to present your offer to and have absolute control over where the offer is showing, something that you lose when opting for an ad network. However, if the niche is super specific, the process becomes more time-consuming and potentially pricier.

Compared to direct buy, going the ad network route typically requires lower investment, particularly when getting started. It’s a much better fit to gain access to numerous different websites. Another important advantage of ad networks is the ability to scale, something that is not part of the direct buy package. Depending on the platform, there are lots of options for targeting and optimizing, where you can get traffic to a specific website based on the targeting, for instance. Ad formats also play a major role, as specific spots should go in line with the type of offer you’re promoting. Thus, a wide array of options, from banner ads to pop ads to contextual ads and everything in between makes your offer more effective in the long run.

In any case, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the entire media buying strategy and what it takes to get it right. There’s a lot of stuff to put in place, but just like those theme-specific Lego sets, once you do – it’ll be so worth your effort.