Media Buyer or Media Sales Representative.  What’s The Difference?

Earlier in my career I worked as a Senior Account Executive selling media to small and mid-sized business owners.  ‘Media’ simply refers to any paid advertising that a media sales rep sells to a business.  Magazine ads, radio spots, digital ads, etc.   I did this for 23 years before I moved to the dark side and started an ad agency, where I now plan and purchase media on behalf of our clients.  Having worked in the trenches so long provides firsthand insight into what makes media salespeople tick, as well as how and why business owners benefit from a media buyer’s objective point of view.

Media buyers plan and buy media either within multiple local markets or on a national level.  They must be competent at analyzing data across multiple media channels.  A good media buyer will have long-standing relationships with media sales reps and media outlets.  This keeps them  informed and able to obtain reduced rates and added value opportunities for their client’s.  A good media sales rep will respect the professional relationship between the client, the media buyer and themselves.  They will work closely with the media buyer to build an advertising schedule.

While media buyers and media sales representatives must work together, here are a few differences in their roles:

Media Sales Representatives

  • Represent one specific type of media such as a magazine, radio station, or a digital trade desk.
  • Are hired to sell inventory and less focused on the overall strategy of a brand.
  • Need to stay up to date regarding the changing products and services they represent.
  • Must be aware of their competition’s products.
  • Typically are self-starters and competent at closing deals.
  • May be full-time or part time and are paid on commission or hourly. Or a combination of both.
  • Sales reps report to their sales managers.

Media Buyers

  • Understand the nuances and details of all traditional and digital media channels.
  • Do not represent one media outlet, but review all media opportunities objectively.
  • Make recommendations relevant to the client’s current business goals and overall brand strategy.
  • Must be agile continuous learners because advertising is always evolving.
  • Are skilled negotiators able to identify strategic buying options.
  • Get paid by receiving discounts from media they place or an hourly rate. Or a combination of both.
  • Media buyers report to their clients.

While both media buyers and media sales representatives are trained professionals, each serves a different role when it comes to how a business owner places advertising.  If you are interested in learning about how working with a media buyer may help your business, contact Joan Ford Goldschmidt @ to learn more.

 – JFG