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Media Planning: What It Is + How to Write a Media Plan

Discover how media planning benefits businesses and the process of building a media plan.

[Featured Image] Three people sit together at a wood table in an open office space and review chart printouts to assess media plan performance.

What is media planning? 

Media planning is a process that marketers use to determine the best method of communicating a message to an audience. Media planning involves analyzing audiences, channels , platforms, messaging, and advertisements to discover the most effective marketing methods to promote a particular brand or product. With thorough media planning, you can reach potential customers on the right channel with the right message at the right time. 

According to HubSpot’s 2022 State of Media & Content Planning Research Report, 70 percent of media planners say that market research is the most effective part of their planning strategy, while 22 percent of media planners intend to invest more in research [ 1 ].  

Media planning vs. media buying 

Media planning concerns the strategy behind selecting media platforms, while media buying concerns the actual monetary investment in different platforms. Media planners often work with media buyers to maximize media spend ROI (return-on-investment).  

Careers in media planning 

The most common job title in media planning is media planner. Media planners leverage their market research and ad reach knowledge to maximize the impact of advertising campaigns. One of their main priorities is determining which media platforms can offer brands the most reach.

As marketing specialists, media planners typically need a bachelor’s degree in communication, marketing, advertising, or business. Zippia reports that 89 percent of media planners hold a bachelor’s degree, while 8 percent have a master’s degree [ 2 ]. 

Based on job listings on Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn, you can find media planning jobs in marketing agencies as well as in industries such as restaurants and nightlife, travel, HR, health and medicine, higher education, technology, software development, and consumer product manufacturing. You may come across related job titles like digital media planner, senior media planner, assistant media planner, brand strategist and planner, paid media strategist, marketing manager, media buyer, and media analyst. 

Company reviews on Glassdoor (as of October 2022) reveal that the top-rated companies hiring media planners include: 

Horizon Media, a data-driven media and marketing company

CMI Media Group, a health, wellness, and pharmaceutical marketing agency 

RPA, an advertising agency

Crossmedia, a communications planning, media services, and international account management company

22squared, a strategic marketing and creative services agency    

How much can you make as a media planner?  

The average Glassdoor salary for a media planner in the US is $77,153

What is a media plan? 

Now that you know the definition of media planning and what the 2022 career landscape looks like for this field, let’s explore how media plans help businesses. A media plan outlines the audiences a marketing message will reach, the channels to be used, and the delivery schedule. 

Your media plan should include the following components: 

Goals and KPIs: How will you define advertising campaign success? 

Budget: How much media spend is available, and how will you allocate it? 

Audience targeting: What are the goals and challenges of the people you are trying to reach , and where (and when) do they spend time online? 

Messaging: What are the media content’s main themes, and how will these themes determine the types of content you create? 

Scheduling: Based on audience insights, how frequently will the messaging appear across channels, and at what times of the day? 

Media mix: Based on audience insights, what combination of channels will you use to increase advertising reach, including social media platforms, blog content, email marketing , paid ads, earned media (news mentions and backlinks), and traditional media? 

Read more: What Is Omnichannel Marketing? Definition, Examples, and Strategy

Benefits of having a media plan

Developing a media plan can benefit a business in several ways, including:  

Getting to know your audience more intimately 

Communicating with your audience more effectively 

Systematizing your marketing efforts 

Monitoring campaign activity

Optimizing campaign performance

Keeping up with the latest media trends 

Driving overall business goals, from growing your customer base to increase revenue 

How to write a media plan 

As you explore media planning, one of the processes you’ll need to master is writing a media plan. Follow the steps below to begin writing a media plan for your next advertising campaign: 

1. Identify your advertising goals.

Get clear on what you want an advertising campaign to achieve. Make sure advertising goals correspond to overall business goals. Draw from these examples to articulate your own: 

Increase social media following and engagement 

Generate qualified leads

Convert more email subscribers into paying customers

2. Conduct market research.  

Understanding your audience is integral to delivering the right message on the schedule that will make the most impact. In addition to gathering the standard information such as demographics (age, location, or income), goals, and challenges, you’ll need to find out what kinds of ads your target audience engages with the most. What messaging and ad creatives get more results? Which channels does your audience prefer?    

3. Refine buyer personas.

Use your findings from market research and information about existing customers to refine buyer personas or create new ones. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. You can use buyer personas to make empowered marketing decisions.   

4. Select media channels.

Include in your media plan a list of the channels through which you will reach your target audience and a short description of the content that will appear on each channel. Concentrate on the channels that your audience is most likely to use. 

Read more: Display Advertising Guide: Types, Best Practices, and How to Start

5. Select media planning tools. 

An important way to get the most out of your media plan and advertising efforts based on it is to use media planning tools. Media planning tools include software and templates that organize the data you need to launch and manage a successful advertising campaign. You will need to monitor ad spend, how campaigns are performing on each channel, and how much revenue you can attribute to individual marketing efforts. 

When choosing media planning tools, consider the cost, ease of setting each up, what each one tracks, and how it presents data. Here are five tools to investigate: 

HubSpot’s free media planning template  


6. Create a media plan.

Using all the information and ideas you’ve gathered, write your media plan and distribute it to other marketing team members and stakeholders. Be sure to include: 

Goals and KPIs

Audience targeting 


7. Implement your media plan and measure results. 

Once you’ve discussed the media plan with team members and stakeholders, implement the advertising campaign across channels. Schedule a time to track performance and measure it against your goals. Adjust the media plan accordingly. 

Improve your marketing with Coursera 

Taking online courses can be a great way to learn marketing skills and discover career options. Explore the Professional Certificate programs below, offered by industry leaders, Google and Meta. 

Article sources

HubSpot. “ The State of Media & Content Planning 2022 Research Report , https://offers.hubspot.com/hubfs/HubSpot_Media_Content_Planning_Report_2022.pdf.” Accessed October 25, 2022. 

Zippia. “ Media Planner Education Requirements , https://www.zippia.com/media-planner-jobs/education/.” Accessed October 25, 2022.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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Media Planning: A Complete Guide for Marketers

Today’s marketers are often tasked with balancing campaign efforts across a range of different media platforms and assets. This can make it challenging to effectively track each tactic’s success and overall impact on the business’s bottom line. With a thorough media planning strategy in place, teams can more accurately and holistically monitor campaign success and make informed decisions about how to optimize performance in the future. 

Let’s take a look at some of the key considerations to keep in mind when building a media plan:

What is Media Planning?

Media planning is the process by which marketers determine how, when, and where an audience is given a selected advertising message. Media planners analyze the audiences, channels, and advertisements to determine the most efficient way to communicate a message to the intended audience.

In today’s competitive and busy marketing landscape, media planning is essential. Marketers need to serve consumers with the right message, at the right time, on the right channel in order to see engagements. Media planning is where marketers determine what these “rights” are.


Media planning is most often done by media planners at advertising agencies. Media planners must work with media buyers and the client organization to develop a strategy to maximize ROI on media spend . Media planners are required to have a firm understanding of the organization’s brand and target audience, various media platforms and developing media trends.

Media planning consists of formulating a strategy, evaluating its effectiveness, and adjusting, while buying is the execution of the strategy.

As noted, the media planner will evaluate brand and audience to determine the correct combination of messaging and media mix on which to advertise in order to reach consumers in a positive, impactful way.

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What is a media plan.

A media plan outlines which audience will be targeted, across which channels, at what time, and with which message. 

An effective media plan will result in a set of advertising opportunities that target a specific audience and fit in with the organization’s marketing budget. When establishing a media plan, factor in the following considerations:

  • Who does the ad need to reach?
  • What is the marketing budget?
  • What are the conversion goals?
  • How frequency should the message be shown?
  • What is the reach (how many people will see it)?
  • How do we define success?

Types of Media Planning

To create an effective media strategy for your brand, you must decide what types of media (traditional or digital) will be cost-effective and bring in sales. 

There are three main types of media that are considered when building a media plan: 

Paid media refers to advertising that is the result of paid placement from the brand. This includes pay-per-click advertising, display ads, and branded content. This is the most common way for brands to get exposure and boost sales. 

Owned Media

Owned media is content that is owned by your brand, i.e. blog posts and social media accounts. By increasing the use of the company’s owned media, you can increase your customer reach and increase brand awareness. 

Earned Media

Earned media refers to the publicity the brand gets from outlets other than their own company. For example, customer reviews, media coverage, and word-of-mouth are all forms of earned media. This form of media is valuable because it often comes directly from consumers. This feedback can also help improve the quality of the product or service you are offering. 

By weighing the cost and benefits of each platform, your company can decide what resources and forms of media will fit best into your media plan.

What are the Benefits of Media Planning?

Today’s modern marketing often requires marketers to leverage multiple forms of media, and a data-driven media plan provides marketers with centralized information across all platforms. This helps to optimize campaigns and messaging, as well as streamline the campaign review process. 

Key benefits of media planning include:

Establish Processes  

Media buying can be a complicated and time-consuming process. By getting your plans and processes in place, you can improve efficiency and save resources across the board.

Budget Tracking

Marketers have to know their budgets and a good media plan accounts for all costs and estimated ROI. 

Audience Segmentation & Analysis

So much of media planning is understanding your audience and what message will resonate with them. 

Optimization & Testing

A good media plan uses the data at hand to determine what has worked, what isn’t working, and what might work based on existing data.

Improved ROI

It’s called a plan for a reason. Media planning allows you to create an optimized campaign that delivers ROI.

What are the Objectives of Media Planning?

Media planners need to identify the combination of ads to achieve a specific result. Objectives should generally align with business goals, such as long-term growth and improving ROI. 

Media planning will often utilize a wide range of tactics to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive conversions to help their organizations accomplish these goals.

Media Planning vs. Media Buying

Many people confuse media planning and media buying but they aren’t the same. Media planning sets you up to buy while m edia buying is the process of purchasing ad space across various channels and platforms in coordination with the agreed-upon media plans and monitoring campaigns as they run. 

This means evaluating platform formats and rates to ensure they coincide with the plan, negotiating costs, keeping abreast of media trends, and building relationships with counterparts at various channels and platforms. 

Media buying often leverages one of the following popular strategies:

  • Manual bidding
  • Direct buys
  • Programmatic buys
  • Real-time bidding

Challenges of Media Planning

Media planning can be challenging because there are so many contributing factors that must be accounted for, and because many believe that media planning strategies and processes have not modernized along with marketing.

Challenges include but are not limited to:

Consumer-Level Targeting

The media plan must understand consumers at a granular level to determine what types of messages resonate with them, requiring in-depth marketing analytics and an omnichannel measurement solution

Platform Preference

Brands must also know the various channels and platforms that target audience members engage with and when. This will allow you to effectively choose media on which to run campaigns. All of this must be done with budget and media spend in mind.

Heavy Budget Focus

Media planning continues to revolve around budget rather than customer engagement. Unfortunately, there is limited flexibility when it comes to a budget, preventing marketers from course correcting as campaigns run and new insights are discovered. Modern media planning requires the flexibility to allocate budget to different channels if they prove to be more successful.

Integrating Measurements

Because there are so many online and offline channels, it has become infinitely more difficult for marketers to measure the success of these campaigns alongside each other to determine which are most effective and which should be updated.

Today, media planning has to adapt to focus on the consumer experience using flexible budgets and real-time, unified measurements that allow for media plan optimizations in-campaign.

The Waste In Advertising - Stats and Solutions of Misattribution

How to Write a Media Plan (4 Steps to Follow)

Creating a media plan is a detailed process that requires planners to consider the needs of target consumers as well as the goals of the business. 

Here are the essential steps and considerations marketers must make when creating a media plan.

Step 1. Determine Media Goals and Objectives

It might be easy to assume that the goal is to drive conversions or engagement; however, that would oversimplify this step. Goals may vary by department, or there might be multiple objectives for one campaign. The sales team may be targeting increased revenue while the marketing objectives might be to increase brand awareness . Knowing the main goal of the campaign will determine how it runs, as well as messaging.

Once clear goals are established, media planners must conduct research into market trends and the competitive landscape. This research will offer visibility into where similar brands and goals have achieved success in the past, informing planning decisions. For example, if a brand has long relied on email campaigns but research reveals that competitors have had greater success with native ads, it may be time to shift the plan.

Of course, when determining goals and setting objectives, media plans must factor in budgets. Avoid assigning strict dollar amounts to specific channels. A flexible approach to your marketing budget will allow for optimizations to be made as campaigns run.

Step 2. Determine Target Audience

Marketing today is driven by creating positive customer experiences . When developing messaging and selecting where to display those messages across the media mix, marketers need to focus on specific audience needs.

• First, examine which segment of the overall audience you are trying to engage. 

• Look at attribution measurements and engagement analytics to understand the types of ads users engage with, which creative is most effective, and importantly, which channels these consumers use. 

• While marketers often utilize demographic information such as age, location , general interests, etc., be sure to incorporate person-level data gathered through a unified measurement approach to get the most tailored results.  

Step 3. Consider Frequency & Reach

Another key component of a media plan is reach and frequency. 

• Reach refers to how many people the campaign will be in front of over a specific amount of time.

• Frequency refers to how many times the consumer will be exposed to the ad over the course of the campaign.  

There are a few popular approaches that marketers take when selecting frequency.

Continuity : Ads will run on a consistent schedule over the course of the campaign: for example, two ads per week. The continuity strategy is often used for goods that are not seasonal and require regular reinforcement to stay top of mind.

Flighting : “Flights” refer to internment or alternating periods of advertisements followed by pauses in advertising on the channel altogether. Flighting works well for seasonal products or for those with less ad budget. For example, when there is a pause in a flighted television campaign, marketers may choose to run print ads instead.

Pulsing : A combination of flighting and continuity. Pulsed campaigns will incorporate low-intensity consistent advertising that is augmented by flights of higher-intensity ads during times when additional messaging can have a high impact. 

Step 4: Analyze and Optimize Campaign Performance

One of the most important steps to building a media planning strategy is to continuously monitor, track, and analyze performance. Marketing campaigns are not “set-it-and-forget-it,” instead, they require ongoing management to drive maximum ROI. This hands-on approach allows teams to identify opportunities to optimize performance in real-time based on what is or isn’t working for each campaign.

Selecting the Right Media Channels

There are a variety of online and offline channels for marketers to choose from. We must use the information gathered in the research and goal-setting phases to determine which channels will drive success.

Here are some of the most popular forms of media that marketers choose when media planning, along with their attributes.

Offline Media

Magazines have a long shelf life and often stay in a consumer’s possession for two to four weeks after being read. Information in this medium tends to be retained longer, since people read faster than they can listen. Research has shown there is a higher amount of trust in magazine ads than in other forms of media ( 60 percent of readers trusted the advertisements they saw in magazines).

Consumers are also less resistant to these kinds of advertisements, as these often tie in with their interests. Publications tend to be very targeted (e.g., running magazines or cooking magazines). They reach a secondary audience in addition to the target audience, since they are passed along to family and friends.

Advertising with local newspapers is a great way to ensure a brand’s message stays local. When selecting this medium, marketers can choose which section of the newspaper ads are placed for further targeting. If you want to target those interested in fashion, you can select the Style section of the newspaper. Additionally, newspaper readers are more likely to have higher education and 7 out of 10 of households earning above $100,000 read the newspaper. This can be important when selecting ad space based on demographics. 

Radio ads have a local appeal, allowing you to target specific areas or regions of the country. It is also an easy medium to build frequency with your target audience, and is considered a lower-cost medium. According to research, exposure to a radio ad and time to purchase is the shortest of any medium. Additionally, when paired with other forms of media, the overall campaigns were more effective .

TV & Cable

TV and cable are highly visual and can demonstrate products in everyday life. For example, if you sell a cleaning product, consumers can see the benefits of the product and how they can be applied in their home. This medium is of course very prevalent, as the average American watches approximately five hours of television a day.

Out of Home

Media such as billboards are large and get attention. In a busy area, your message can reach 10,000 people in a month. Out of home isn’t limited by billboards, only your creativity is. Out-of-home is also an extremely mobile option. (e.g., using displays to advertise luggage at an airport).

Online Media

Digital publications.

Many digital publications have opportunities for you to email their database through a personalized email or newsletter. They can track open rates and understand conversion rates to your site or asset. These are often specialized publications, making it easy to reach your target audience, and are great tools for lead generation campaigns.

Advertisers can capitalize on search intent. Advertisers can retarget people who have visited their site. PPC is an extremely cost-effective medium.

Social Media

Like PPC, social media is an extremely cost-effective medium. It is also extremely targeted, allowing marketers to target by interests, age, marriage status, etc. Social platforms are constructed on a basis of community, which allows your brand to connect more personally with consumers. It also gives your brand the chance for content to go viral.

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is extremely targeted, using an algorithm to find and target specific audiences across digital platforms. When looking into this, there are two methods to consider:

Programmatic Bidding - uses demand side platforms to buy ads on the digital market based on target audience.

Real-Time Bidding - allows advertisers to bid on impressions to their target audience. If their bid wins, the ad is displayed right away.

Tips for Building a Media Planning Strategy

As marketers begin to strategize new media plans, keep these ideas in mind:

Select outlets and times that will best reach your target audience. For example, buying ad space during a live televised event (such as a sports game) ensures that viewers will be watching the program live and not fast forwarding through the commercials.

Establish Clear Goals

Is this a branding campaign or are you looking to generate leads? How many people are you looking to reach?

How do you encourage people to talk about your brand? Make sure your ad has a clear direction on what would resonate with this target audience based on demographics and viewership. Additionally, make sure you have a way to test the effectiveness of your ad.

Attribution Models

Make sure that your team is using a marketing attribution model that can effectively track offline and online media. Using the right attribution model can ensure your team is making choices that make sense when planning media.

Media Planning and Marketing

Since the pandemic began, more customers have started shopping in an online space. 77 percent of online “window” shoppers make impulse purchases. Since this number is only expected to grow, it is important to have an effective media strategy . This means separating your budget appropriately between print, digital, video, and broadcast ads. 

To ensure that your brand is saving money and delivering content to the correct audience, it would be wise to know the costs and importance of using each form of advertising. From here, your company can delegate the correct amount of resources to each campaign to increase website traffic and brand awareness.

Getting Started with Media Planning

With a comprehensive media planning strategy, organizations can make more data-driven decisions about how to improve marketing ROI and drive conversions. Today, many teams are leveraging tools that allow them to make smarter, faster, and more accurate media planning choices. 

With Marketing Evolution’s Scenario Planner , organizations can strategically build out their annual media strategy and plan, and even run “what if” scenarios that allow them to modify key campaign factors without impacting active initiatives. This enables teams to truly optimize their media mix while simultaneously cutting down on ad waste.

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media planning definition in business

What is Media Planning?

what is media planning

What are the elements of media planning?

The elements of media planning include understanding marketing objectives, setting campaign goals, performing market research, managing a budget, structuring media objectives to establish a media planning strategy, creating a media plan, implementing the plan and evaluating the results of the plan. Media planning is the process based on these elements, which lead media planners to build context before building an actionable strategy.

Most media campaigns begin with a brand or client crafting and delivering a marketing brief that describes all of the long-term marketing objectives and goals for the campaign that they want to accomplish. The brief will also provide more insight into the brand’s products or services that need media advertisements, potential target audience information and other suggestions and contextual information for the campaign.

Media planners start here to build an understanding of what information they already have to work with as they seek the best placements for their ads.

Media planners then perform any necessary market research to continue to better their understanding of the target audience and how similar products or services may have been marketed in the past. They may conduct surveys, consult existing study results, run product tests or discuss with focus groups.

Market research may be done in-house (whether by the brand itself or the agency doing the media planning for a client) or performed by a hired third party. The findings from this research are then analyzed and condensed into key insights that will impact the eventual structure of the media plan.

With the background for the marketing campaign established through initial goals and research, media planners can begin to set specific objectives for the media plan. These media objectives will be narrowed down to create the direct goals for each media campaign, helping to construct the framework for the media planning strategy.

Media objectives should include specific KPI benchmarks, audience requirements and optimal spend levels. Marketers should consider whether objectives like overall brand awareness are more important than driving volume of sales to a specific product, for example. Through these objectives and the initial background research, a media planning strategy is established – this paves the way for the creation of a media plan.

Using the knowledge of the media planning strategy, media planners construct a media plan that incorporates one or more media platforms in which ads will be placed. The channels chosen for the media plan will be cost-effective for the advertiser’s budget constraints, adequate for the required reach and frequency goals of the target audience and relevant in format to the creative and messaging being placed.

Once the team or client has been presented with this plan, the media planners move forward to the media buying phase for implementation. Media planning and media buying teams are often separate, so the media planners may consult with the media buyers to get their plan implemented and the ad space purchased.

After the campaign has gone live, media planners will continuously analyze the results of the campaign to ensure that goals are being met and the plan remains optimized for maximum effectiveness. This analysis will in turn help the planners learn more about their target audiences and craft future campaigns with better success.

Planning tools

In this digital age, there are tons of smart planning tools out there that can help media planners stay organized.  Media flowcharts , media schedules and advertising campaign calendars let you visualize your advertising campaigns and understand what media will reach a specific audience segment. Planning tools like these can help you compare real time data from media dashboards, like conversion rates and impressions, to your overall goals set out in your media plan. With the bird’s eye view that certain media planning tools offer, you can better understand how to reach your target audience based on your previous and current efforts. 

Some tools help you earlier in the planning process, such as those that facilitate a relationship with media vendors. An agency RFP scorecard could help you compare RFP responses side by side to determine which vendor has the best offering for your audience and budget. Of course, media buying platforms are one of the most common tools that you may associate with media buying before planning – however, they assist planners in understanding what options are out there. One new and very useful tool for media planners is a media agency RFP discovery tool that helps you discover new vendors, see their offerings and get in touch with them.

Media planners should follow a set process that incorporates all of the core elements of media planning. Campaign goals must be considered along with background research, a budget must be established and the right media channels for the audience must be considered. Media planners may create a media flowchart to organize and visualize the plan. 

Learn more about how to create an effective media plan in our previous article on media planning.

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Gartner Glossary

Media planning.

Media planning is the process of identifying and selecting media outlets in which to place paid advertisements. During media planning, marketers determine where, when and how often they will run an advertisement to maximize engagement and return on investment.

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  1. Media Planning Basics: The 10 Parts of a Media Plan

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  2. Media Planning Definition

    media planning definition in business

  3. Media Planning: An Essential Guide + 9 Top Tips (Exceptional Results

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  4. What is Media Planning? definition, media, plan, media, mix, media

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  5. Media Planning

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  6. Explain The Meaning and Process of Media Planning

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  1. marketing plan day 6

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  3. Meaning Features of Media, Media Mix, Media Planning| Media Planning & Management| TYBMS

  4. Media Planning & Management MCQs #mediaplanning #tybms #mumbaiuniversity #tybmsmarketing #tybmssem6

  5. Create a powerful Digital PR Campaign with Excellent Publicity’s Digital PR Media Planning Guide

  6. Corporate Information Video Example


  1. Media Planning: What It Is + How to Write a Media Plan

    Media planning is a process that marketers use to determine the best method of communicating a message to an audience. Media planning involves analyzing audiences, channels, platforms, messaging, and advertisements to discover the most effective marketing methods to promote a particular brand or product.

  2. What Is Media Planning? Definition and Guide (2023)

    Definition and Guide (2023) Media planning is the process of identifying and selecting media outlets – mainly newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and radio stations, and outdoor placement – in which to place paid advertisements. Email address Create your store Build your dream business for $1/month

  3. Media Planning: A Complete Guide for Marketers

    Media planning is the process by which marketers determine how, when, and where an audience is given a selected advertising message. Media planners analyze the audiences, channels, and advertisements to determine the most efficient way to communicate a message to the intended audience.

  4. What is Media Planning? Definition, Types, FAQ & Examples

    Media planning is the process based on these elements, which lead media planners to build context before building an actionable strategy. Most media campaigns begin with a brand or client crafting and delivering a marketing brief that describes all of the long-term marketing objectives and goals for the campaign that they want to accomplish.

  5. Definition of Media Planning

    Media Planning. Media planning is the process of identifying and selecting media outlets in which to place paid advertisements. During media planning, marketers determine where, when and how often they will run an advertisement to maximize engagement and return on investment.