Advertising is an increasingly competitive and specialised industry and is one of the most popular career choices for graduates

As a media buyer you will negotiate, purchase and monitor advertising space and airtime on behalf of clients. The aim is to reach the highest number of people in the target audience at the lowest possible cost.

Roles tend to be based in advertising and media agencies. You may work across several or all media, including:

  • cinema;
  • internet;
  • magazines;
  • newspapers;
  • posters;
  • television.

You will usually work on more than one client account at a time. In some full-service agencies, the role of media buyer is combined with the role of a media planner.

Responsibilities

You'll be involved in:

  • identifying the target audience for a particular media campaign and deciding how best to communicate to that audience;
  • keeping up to date with industry research figures, including distribution figures (newspapers and magazines) and audience figures (television and radio);
  • monitoring buying strategies;
  • liaising and building relationships with clients and media sales companies;
  • negotiating with media sales companies to obtain the best rates and most appropriate media spaces in online, broadcast and print advertising;
  • communicating with media sales people to adjust media schedules in response to audience figures;
  • booking individual advertising spots, e.g. pages, posters, internet banners and broadcast adverts;
  • ensuring that the adverts run accurately so that the desired media message is seen and heard by consumers;
  • client reporting and budget management, including preparing costings for clients and producing spending updates throughout the campaign;
  • collecting and analysing sales and consumer data;
  • undertaking research using a range of specialist media resources;
  • analysing the effectiveness of the campaign and using this data to inform future campaigns.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for media buyers are generally in the region of £18,000 to £25,000, depending on location. Salaries are usually higher in London.
  • With three to five years of experience you can earn £26,000 to £35,000.
  • Senior buyers, e.g. media directors with significant experience, can earn up to £50,000 or more, depending on location.

It may be possible to increase earnings by moving between agencies or going into sales. The highest average salaries are found in the larger agencies, often located in London.

Some agencies may offer other benefits to their staff such as private healthcare and gym memberships.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, with extra hours when deadlines have to be met. Shift work is rare. Some agencies have flexible working hours on the understanding that staff will work late if a tight deadline is to be made.

Due to the fast-moving nature of the media industry, you may find it challenging to re-enter the role after a career break.

What to expect

  • You will generally be office based, with a large amount of time spent negotiating on the phone. However, some time may be spent visiting clients and media sales representatives.
  • Self-employment and freelance work is generally not possible, however there is a chance you could move into consultancy work at a higher level.
  • Most advertising agencies are concentrated in London but opportunities also exist in large towns and cities, particularly in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester.
  • It's likely that you'll be expected to network with clients and media sales representatives at lunchtimes and in the evenings, but the hours are generally more regular than those of other agency staff.
  • The atmosphere and dress code in agencies is usually informal, although a professional and business-like appearance is required for meetings with clients.
  • Travel within a working day is occasional. Absence from home overnight or overseas work is uncommon.
  • Media buying is competitive, and you may want to consider applying for other posts within the industry to help gain entry into the profession and get valuable experience.

Qualifications

You can become a media buyer with any degree but the following subjects are particularly useful and may increase your chances:

  • advertising;
  • business or management studies;
  • English and journalism;
  • marketing;
  • media studies and communications;
  • psychology;
  • statistics.

Entry without a degree or HND is sometimes possible, especially if you have relevant experience and excellent interpersonal skills. It's possible to start in a different role within an agency and work your way up to the role of buyer.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed. However, as the media industry becomes more global in scope, business qualifications are becoming more important. Employers expect all staff to be commercially aware. Language skills may also be desirable.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • team work and interpersonal skills for liaising with clients and colleagues;
  • excellent written and oral communication skills;
  • presentation skills for reporting back to clients;
  • good numerical, analytical and research skills to evaluate campaigns;
  • strong organisational skills, accuracy and the ability to assimilate information quickly;
  • negotiation skills to get the best advertising space at the best price;
  • a good understanding of media;
  • the ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines and make decisions quickly;
  • IT literacy;
  • creativity and problem-solving skills;
  • commercial and budget awareness.

Work experience

Advertising is becoming increasingly competitive, so pre-entry work experience can be very useful. This may be gained through vacation work, work placements and voluntary work in relevant areas such as:

  • advertising;
  • communications;
  • marketing.

You could try to approach agencies to ask if they offer work experience or to find out if it's possible for you to work shadow some media buyers. Details of member agencies which can be used to make speculative applications is available through the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

Any sales experience will also be useful and part-time work that demonstrates your people skills and ability to communicate effectively with others is also valuable.

Employers

Positions for media buyers are mainly found within media independents, which specialise is buying and sometimes planning and research. Traditionally these services were only offered by advertising agencies.

Other typical employers include:

  • advertising agencies;
  • full-service marketing agencies;
  • new media agencies.

Media agencies cover all types of media while new media agencies cover advertising through:

  • the internet;
  • digital media;
  • text messaging.

Some companies operate specialist new media departments. There is a greater opportunity to interact with the creative teams if you work in advertising or full-service marketing agencies. If you work in a creative agency, you're more likely to be involved in an integrated campaign, so your application would need to reflect your creative skills.

Look for job vacancies at:

Some media independents recruit graduates directly, while several companies recruit through specialist agencies.

Some advertising/media agencies may respond to speculative applications. Research both the role and the specific employer carefully; visit the company's website and be aware of their current presence in the market.

Professional development

Training varies depending on the advertising or media agency. Many larger companies run structured training programmes. In the early stages of your career, it's important to experience the whole process from planning the relevant media to negotiating the best price.

Training often involves working on a range of client accounts to gain broad experience. As you'll spend a lot of your time on the phone to media sales companies and clients, a key aspect of your training will involve gaining a deep knowledge of the business, along with negotiation and consultancy skills. IT and presentation skills training is also frequently provided.

Work-based training may be supported by attending seminars and workshops delivered by key media research organisations. This will enable you to gain an understanding of how to interpret and make use of audience research figures and findings.

Training courses are also available at different levels to help with continuing professional development (CPD) from industry bodies such as the:

You will be expected to keep up to date with industry trends by reading relevant publications.

Career prospects

Successful media buyers are often in demand, especially in the growing sector outside London. Media buying is a fast-moving occupation, with opportunities for steep career progression based on performance, experience and key transferable skills.

You can expect to become an established media buyer after about a year. The next step is media manager and then media director (usually after five to six years of experience). Promotion to a senior or management position brings additional team and account management responsibilities.

A CPD accreditation standard is provided by the IPA, which is available to graduates working within IPA member agencies. Graduates employed by IPA member agencies are also eligible to take part in IPA's training programme, which provides a formal structure for career progression.

Headhunting is common in the media industry. You may move between employers in order to obtain an increase in salary and broaden your experience. Alternatively, you may move between divisions in your own company.

Once established, you can choose to work across a range of media or specialise in specific areas of buying. This might include radio, online or even television buying, which is usually handled by a specialised unit within the media team due to its complexity and the dynamic nature of the marketplace.