How do you make the most of your media spend? In this article, our media buying experts share how to navigate the nuances of media spending and paid media – where to get started, and how to ensure success.

Media buying, the process of purchasing ad spaces on both digital and offline platforms, is a highly nuanced process, with a lot of pressure placed on acquiring the optimal placement for customer experience and conversion. 

By staying abreast of top media buying strategies and negotiation tactics, media teams can better optimise spend and strategy. In this article, we asked our network members and media specialists Anything is Possible and Flaunt Digital, to shed some light on the nuances, challenges, and importance of media buying.


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Media Spend and Paid Media: Where to start 


As with any form of marketing, a good media spending and paid media strategy should begin with research.

Start with this - who are you trying to reach, and who is your target market?

As Craig Starling, Digital Media Partner at Anything is Possible describes, “Media buying is a wide-open space. You start with a blank sheet of paper each time. You do your research and build the right strategy based on what the data tells you – plus a bit of sharp instinct.

Craig Sterling of Anything Is Possible talked about getting started with your media spend


Craig goes on to say that just because media buying is a wide open, it “doesn’t mean there is nothing there. Learnings are available if you know where to find them.

The IPA is a great place to look. They have a real commitment to the art and make a lot of resources available. The big platforms have huge amounts of free learning too - see Google Skillshop or Facebook Blueprint. But beware of platform bias, and never over-rely on one channel or solution.”  

Low hanging fruit

For Adam Worrall, Head of Paid Media and Flaunt Digital, the best place to start is with the “lowest hanging fruit”, and that would be paid search. 

Paid search allows you to get in front of users who are already engaged and ‘in market’.

They’re actively searching for something as opposed to being a passive audience (like you’d get on Facebook, Instagram, or most other social channels). It allows you to pinpoint the exact keywords or phrases that you want to show an ad for, so you can be incredibly specific about when you want your ad to show within a search engine results page. It’s the logical starting point and can be measured accurately in line with your KPIs.” 

So, once you have defined your target market, done the research, and set objectives in line with your KPIs, you will be in a good place to create and define your strategy.

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Media Spend and Paid Media: Common Misconceptions

Due to the many different forms and channels of media buying, it’s easy to harbour some misconceptions around this field of advertising. Agencies that specialise in media buying and paid media can ease this process and ensure success when it comes to your strategy. 

Relying on Automation for your Media Campaign


For Craig, one of the most common misconceptions he sees is to do with automation. “Often, people think that automation advances means that campaigns can be set-up and left to auto-optimise.


Unless you own the platform, or maybe the automation software, this is a sure-fire way to over-pay and under-deliver.” 

Not Managing Expectations

Paid media shouldn’t be seen as something you can just “switch on and generate immediate results.”

Adam goes on to expand by saying “even though we’ve outlined that paid search and shopping gives immediate access to in-market audiences, it’s also unrealistic to expect it to be an instant success.

Adam Worrall from Flaunt Digital discusses media spend and paid media


If set up correctly, you’ll likely see some positive early results, but paid activity across any platform is an exercise in strategy mapping and data analysis. Optimising activity takes time and shouldn’t ever be too reactionary.

The best results are driven by analysis of good-sized data banks, as opposed to knee-jerk reactions to small sample sizes.” 

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How and when should you assess the performance of a media buying strategy?

You’re at a stage where you’ve implanted your strategy (perhaps with the help of an agency partner,) and you know not to rely on automation or expect immediate results, so how often should you be assessing your performance? According to Craig, it depends on the channel.

Evaluating performance by channel


“Continual assessment should be built into the strategy and the delivery. But the most effective and efficient cadence for doing that varies based on the channel. 


You need data-driven decisions, and it can take time to amass data to make your decisions meaningful, i.e., based on statistical significance, hooked to a key point of difference and isolated variables. To set these levels you need to chase down robust benchmarks to inform your thinking: year-on-year comparisons, industry trends etc.”

Review as much as possible

When it comes to paid media, Adam recommends checking performance as regularly as possible “but at the very least, on a daily basis.”

“Whilst we might not be looking to make changes this frequently, it’s important to be sense checking all activity to ensure that we’re spotting any spikes or drops that might come out of the blue.

It’s important to have a keen eye for detail when monitoring trends. In terms of meaningful reassessment of performance, there’s no set timescale but outside of monitoring day-to-day, we find that our weekly performance reporting throws up more meaningful trend insights based on more robust data volumes.” 

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The benefits of using a marketing agency for media buying 

As we highlighted initially, media buying is a highly nuanced process, with pressures placed on obtaining the best placement for customer experience and conversion.

Many companies might be reluctant to enlist the services of a media buying agency due to either not knowing what they do or wanting to keep it all in-house.

But as Adam explains, using a marketing agency gives you “access to specialist resource and a dedicated team who have the time and knowledge to best leveraged paid channels for your brand.” 

Agencies will give your accounts the time and effort needed to succeed


“We’re under the hood of accounts all day, every day, so you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your accounts across platforms are getting the time and effort that they need to succeed.

We have our ears to the ground of all the latest industry insights, plus we work across many clients, allowing transferable insights to be gleaned. If we’re testing something as a team that works, we’ll likely roll out tests to see if these are transferrable across industries.

We generate learnings on a vast level, and these help us to drive efficiencies within accounts along with being able to successfully scale performance too.

Craig echoes that “agencies are able to develop expertise and specialisms that only the very largest organisations have the resource to develop in-house.” 

Building relationships with media owners

Another benefit Craig highlights is that agencies who specialise in media buying have built relationships with media owners.

This means we can negotiate rates which make media investment go much further. Over-reliance on programmatic tools comes with the risk of lock-in, and agencies out-maneuverer that by developing knowledge and access across multiple tools and complementary platforms, and build our own tech and drive innovations, in ways that develop vital performance and effectiveness gains.”

Key takeaways


  • A good media buying strategy should begin with data and research.
  • Don’t rely on automation to optimise your campaign.
  • Don’t expect immediate results.
  • How often you assess performance varies by channel, but you should review your media buying strategy as regularly as possible.
  • Using a marketing agency gives you access to specialist resources and dedicated teams that can ultimately improve your ROI exponentially

If you need agency support with your media buying strategy, GO! can help. Let us know your requirements here.

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