Media buyers negotiate, purchase and monitor advertising space and airtime on behalf of clients

As a media buyer, you'll play a key role in ensuring that advertising and promotional campaigns reach the highest number of people in your target audience at the lowest possible cost.

Roles tend to be based in advertising and media agencies. You may work across a range of different media or specialise in a particular area, such as:

  • film
  • internet
  • print
  • radio
  • television.

You'll 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

As a media buyer, you'll need to:

  • identify the target audience for a particular media campaign and decide how best to communicate to that audience
  • keep up to date with industry research figures, including distribution figures for newspapers and magazines and audience figures for television and radio
  • monitor buying strategies
  • liaise and build relationships with clients and media sales companies
  • negotiate with media sales companies to obtain the best rates and most appropriate media spaces in online, broadcast and print advertising
  • work with the media planning team to ensure that campaigns are workable and keep the client updated on the approved media plan
  • communicate with media sales people to adjust media schedules in response to audience figures
  • book individual advertising spots, e.g. pages, posters, internet banners and broadcast adverts
  • ensure that the adverts run accurately so that the desired media message is seen and heard by consumers
  • attend meetings with clients in order to report on campaign strategies and results
  • manage budgets, including preparing costings for clients and producing spending updates throughout the campaign
  • collect and analyse sales and consumer data
  • undertake research on industry developments in your area, new opportunities and competitors' activity
  • analyse the effectiveness of the campaign and use this data to inform future campaigns.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for media buyers are generally in the region of £18,000 to £25,000.
  • With around three to five years of experience you can earn between £26,000 and £35,000.
  • Senior buyers and media directors with significant experience, can earn over £50,000.

Salaries vary depending on your location and are usually higher in London.

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 bonuses, 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.

You'll often be expected to network with clients and media sales representatives at lunchtimes and in the evenings.

What to expect

  • You'll 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.
  • Most advertising agencies are concentrated in London but opportunities also exist in large towns and cities, particularly in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester.
  • Self-employment and freelance work is generally not possible. However, there is a chance you could move into consultancy work at a higher level.
  • 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.

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 or operational research.

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, gain experience and then work your way up to the role of buyer.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed.

Employers expect all staff to be commercially aware. Language skills may also be useful.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • good numerical, analytical and research skills to evaluate campaigns
  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • teamwork and interpersonal skills for liaising with clients and colleagues
  • presentation skills for reporting back to clients
  • 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 approaching agencies to ask if they offer work experience or to find out if it's possible for you to work shadow some media buyers. A list of member agencies that 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 in 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 may also be 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:

The IPA offers its members the opportunity to work towards accredited member status (MIPA). MIPA takes three years to achieve and you'll need to follow a qualifications-based programme of learning.

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

Career prospects

Media buying is a fast-moving occupation, with opportunities for steep career progression based on performance, experience and key transferable skills.

You'll often start your career in a combined junior media planner/buyer role before specialising as a buyer. Once established, you can choose to work across a range of media or specialise in specific areas of buying, such as radio, online or television.

With the right combination of skills and experience, you can move up to a senior media buyer role and then on to the role of media account director, with overall responsibility for the client account, and media director. Promotion to a senior or management position brings additional team and account management responsibilities.

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. There are also opportunities to move to sales and marketing roles.

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