The task of media planning is usually outsourced to an agency or buying service, like NuSpark Media, partly because of the complexity involved in the research and buying processes. It requires understanding of media platforms, ad reach and frequency, and how to implement the best combination of media to realize your goals while remaining within your marketing budget. This isn’t something you can achieve simply by using a spreadsheet and calculator. Professional media buyers like myself have a range of sophisticated research and planning tools at their disposal, and I’ve listed a few of them here.

  1. SRDS is a powerful subscription-based research and planning platform that enables buyers to evaluate inventory from multiple advertising partners, view pricing and start the purchase process. It simplifies programmatic buying and even has a circulation book for planners who want to include newspaper buys in their strategy.
  2. Advantage Software is a media billing and workflow system that automates the project management and financial aspects of media planning through a portal that connects agencies with clients to share files, get approvals and generally manage relationships.
  3. Bionic’s software program uses a core interface that resembles a spreadsheet design, which offers the ease of Excel built into a sophisticated system complete with a range of tools to create and execute media plans, send RFPs and place purchase orders.
  4. While it doesn’t actually create media plans, comSCORE has tools for researching target audiences that contribute to the planning process by creating “consideration sets” of websites for buyers.
  5. Nielsen’s strong points have always been research and audience measurement, and it’s best used in the research phase to develop a set of media for consideration.
  6. MediaForce is a modern SaaS product that delivers simplicity of use, integrates with Nielsen for ratings measurement, plans and purchases practically all types of digital display media, compares programs, dayparts, and other factors and measures actual ratings achieved against projections.
  7. Naturally, Google is in on the action with a number of free tools, including Google Trends, which is useful for measuring brand popularity and tracking tech trends. This helps planners determine where best to spend advertising dollars.
  8. Think with Google is another horse in the search giant’s stable, which provides media planners for small- and medium-sized companies with the insights they need to target new markets on a global level.
  9. Kantar Media’s TGI solution provides rich insights into consumer characteristics, which enables media planning agencies to target audiences, choose the right media mixes and build campaigns effectively.
  10. Mediatool offers professional media planning software that keeps clients’ advertising campaigns, budgets and reports in one streamlined, cloud-based system, delivers detailed overviews and summaries, and reminds users about important deadlines and deliverables.
  11. One of the older tools still around is Centro, which offers fairly high-cost, outsourced programmatic planning, ordering and monitoring services along with its software. It’s limited to digital channels, but for anyone who wants someone else to do the work this is a great, albeit expensive, option.
  12. For marketers focusing on mobile platforms, AdReady enables them to use mobile geo-fencing technology to target users with in-app ads within specific areas across the world, determine attribution channels and make campaign adjustments mid-flight.
  13. The Rubicon Project’s automated platform manages direct and programmatic ad buys through a streamlined RFP process and deal negotiation with buyers.
  14. Outbrain specializes in driving engagement between companies and their target market using behavioral data and a native advertising platform. It uses algorithms to find the best audiences for advertisers and capture their attention.
  15. For marketers focused on Facebook, AdRoll is the perfect platform for agencies to plug into a technology stack. It allows buyers to manage all their clients and campaigns from a single dashboard and improves productivity with its smart defaults.

Media planning and buying tools aren’t all that’s needed for professionals wanting to deliver a good performance for their clients. Keeping track of the shifts in media and technology and identifying hot industry trends is also a vital function, and sites like Digiday and Adweek are valuable sources of information and analysis. AdExchanger also provides the advertising community with ideas, news and updates.

For marketers looking for professional media planners to handle their advertising campaigns, this list offers a helpful way to determine whether the agency you want to sign up with has the expertise and resources to deliver the right level of service and provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed choice.


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