Close this search box.
Young woman who works in media planning working at her desk while wearing head phones

Understanding Media Planning

Learning how to create your first media plan can be daunting. What should your budget split be? What devices should you target and why? Let’s look at how to create effective media plans that leverage various strategies to optimize campaign performance and, ultimately, help us achieve our marketing goals.

First things first, what is media planning? Media planning is the process of strategizing and selecting the ideal mix of media platforms to deliver advertising messages to a targeted audience. It involves understanding who your audience is, where they are, and how they consume content. You then align this knowledge with your campaign goals and budget to determine where, when, and how often your ads should appear.

Let’s break down a typical media plan and walk through its different components.

Media Planning 101

Campaign Name

This one is straightforward. The campaign name should be unique, memorable, and descriptive of the campaign’s main objective or theme. It helps in tracking and differentiating campaigns.

Start Date / End Date

Determining the campaign duration is essential. When you select your start and end dates, consider factors like budget, goals, and the context of your campaign. For example, a company like Bic may increase its ad spend during back-to-school season.

Cross-Device Targeting

In today’s multi-device world, it’s often beneficial to target users across all their devices – smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, etc. Cross-device targeting can lead to higher engagement rates, better customer insights, and an improved return on investment.

Budget & Pacing

The budget of your campaign will determine the breadth and reach of your ad. Pacing refers to how your budget is spent over the campaign duration. Pacing can be even (spending roughly the same each day) or accelerated (spending more quickly, often used when ad relevance is time-sensitive).

Line Items

Line items detail the specifics of your ad placements and typically include the following elements:

  • Environment: Where will your ads appear? The choice between a web or app environment will depend on where your audience spends most of their time.
  • Creative Type: This refers to the ad format used (video, banner, native, etc.). Choose the one that best suits your campaign objectives and target audience’s consumption habits.
  • Optimization Strategy: This is the approach used to maximize the effectiveness of the campaign. It can range from maximizing viewability or clicks, minimizing Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), or maximizing video completion rate.
  • Audience Targeting: This is where you define your target audience, based on your personas or first-party data. The more defined your audience, the better your chances of reaching the right people.
  • Frequency Cap: This is the maximum number of times a unique user will see your ad in a specific time frame. It prevents ad fatigue and helps to optimize your budget.

Other targeting options can be set if necessary:

  • Language Targeting: If your audience is concentrated in a specific linguistic group, it may be beneficial to target by language.
  • Device & Connection Type Targeting: This allows you to target users based on their device (smartphone, tablet, desktop) or their type of internet connection (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi).

Now, let’s put it all together in a sample media plan.

Sample Media Plan

Our client, a mid-size tech company specializing in cybersecurity solutions, has allocated a budget of $100,000. Their primary goal is to increase the visibility of their new flagship product – a comprehensive home cybersecurity system – and drive product inquiries on their website. The campaign will target tech-savvy homeowners, and professionals working from home.

Campaign Name: SecureHome Launch

Start Date / End Date: July 1, 2023 / October 1, 2023

Cross-Device Targeting: ON

Budget & Pacing: $100,000 evenly paced over three months.

Line Items:

  1. Environment: Web
  2. Creative Type: Video
  3. Optimization Strategy: Maximize Viewability
  4. Audience Targeting: Persona – Tech-savvy homeowners aged 25-45
  5. Frequency Cap: 3 per day
  6. Environment: App
  7. Creative Type: Native Ads
  8. Optimization Strategy: Maximize Clicks
  9. Audience Targeting: Persona – Professionals working from home aged 25-45
  10. Frequency Cap: 5 per day

Language Targeting: English

Device & Connection Type Targeting: All devices, focusing on Wi-Fi and 4G+ connections.

By executing this plan, the tech company aims to make the most of its budget to increase brand awareness and ultimately drive more product inquiries. The plan addresses the objective by targeting two core personas – tech-savvy homeowners and professionals working from home – on both web and app environments, with an ad frequency designed to maintain visibility without overwhelming the audience. The optimization strategies are specifically chosen to increase the visibility of the video ads on the web and drive clicks on the native ads within apps.

Evaluating and Optimizing Your Media Plan

Remember, planning is only the first step. Once your campaign is live, it’s important to monitor and adjust your strategy based on performance.

Analytics and Tracking: Use a combination of your own website analytics, plus ad platform data to see how your ads are performing. Look for trends, such as which devices are driving the most conversions, what times of day see the most engagement, etc.

Adjust and Optimize: Don’t be afraid to tweak your media plan mid-campaign. If you notice one ad format or platform is outperforming another, you might choose to reallocate some of your budget. Likewise, if your target audience isn’t engaging as expected, you may need to refine your audience targeting.

Post-Campaign Analysis: After your campaign ends, conduct a comprehensive review. Did you achieve your goals? What worked well and what could be improved for next time? Use these insights to inform your future campaigns.

With this approach, your media planning skills will not only be geared toward launching campaigns but also towards learning and improving from each one.

And there you have it! With a well-planned and executed media plan, your campaigns can effectively reach your target audience, meet your campaign objectives, and maximize your marketing budget. Happy planning!


The newsletter for ambitious women in marketing.

Marketing news to elevate your career – plus an inspiring interview – delivered to your inbox weekly, for free.