These 5 recent changes are shaping media buying

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Greetings as usual from London, UK.

In this newsletter, I want to focus on the process of media buying, specifically the five recent changes in that process and the nuances that surround it that we need to know.

Much of what I focus on is surrounded by one crucial factor … TRUST. And with that in mind, I also talk about how we can build/rebuild trust with our advertisers, including the three building blocks required by us to ensure sales consistency and, therefore, trust.

Media buying 

The way buyers buy our media has changed.

In a post-COVID world, advertising predictions are really difficult to be totally confident about, as it is still not yet clear whether people will continue to shop online exclusively or rather go back to enjoying the shopping experience in busy city centres due to a return to “a kind of normality.”  

Nevertheless, there are five major trends that have emerged which, whilst having been with us for some time now, will continue to be (more) prevalent, irrespective of any current influences.  

Understanding these trends and then synching with our advertiser strategies will be key to our continued success in digital advertising. 

Those five trends are:

1. (Disruptive) online advertising is a contradiction 

Advertisers have been aware of this for years now. Customers should ideally not be concerned or bothered by ads, but instead they should believe they have had a good customer experience. However, the only way to creatively bring meaningful awareness is through some form of disruption. 

It’s true to say native ads and social media have set the course for a different understanding of digital advertising.

Time and time again, various industry surveys have shown us that relevance and context are the most important reasons for positive reactions to ads.  

With ads that are “too pushy,” advertisers run the risk of generating bad/negative connotations. Indeed, native ads, for instance, are also suitable for making products aware/known to customers — the crucial factors here being that algorithms and data, which optimise for specific targets are built to disrupt and force attention. Just being aware is forearmed. 

2. Alternatives to Facebook 

An analysis of the CTRs vs pricing of Facebook ads over recent years has shown the optimal performance of the platform was reached back in 2016. Ads then became more expensive and less frequently clicked on.

The reason? Engagement is now happening elsewhere, too. 

Facebook is no longer the only — or best — game in town for reaching customers.
Facebook is no longer the only — or best — game in town for reaching customers.

There is no longer just one platform that bonds all target groups. Instead, advertisers now have a more complex need to both diversify and develop more tailored content and, therefore, differing formats in a myriad of channels. 

COVID brought with it a mix of fake news, conspiracy theories, and less moderation, which ensured advertising on platforms remains challenging for many brands with a high demand for brand safety. Are you putting brand safety into your sales team’s consciousness? 

3. Purpose advertising” drives business 

Brands with a clear stance and commitment to sustainability and environmentalism are no longer the exception. This will continue to develop strongly in the coming years, in media companies amongst others. 

Brands can no longer avoid topics such as diversity and inclusion. According to eMarketer, inclusion is now a main factor for determining their brand loyalty for 61% of customers.

Media brands are now starting to include these progressive themes as part of their DNA to achieve their longer-term success. (See my last newsletter for more on this). 

4. No more exclusive bookings 

In the pre-digital age, advertisers booked specific verticals to reach their target audiences with us.  

For example, women could be reached through things like celebrity or fashion magazines, men through motor car and sport publications. That’s how stupidly simple and clichéd advertising worked. 

Finding your advertiser's target audience relies on first-party data to bring reader eyeballs instead of the old-school strategy of predictable verticals.
Finding your advertiser's target audience relies on first-party data to bring reader eyeballs instead of the old-school strategy of predictable verticals.

However in the digital space, the use of first-party data is now making that traditional media booking an extinct dinosaur. With automated/programmatic media booking, ads now find their target audiences across the net. 

Relevance to the user is now key. And it’s now a dialogue not a monologue. 

5. Never-ending feeds

The Internet is now organised by feeds. Not only do all social media platforms rely on the user experience but also feeds, where both ads and editorial content are embedded. They have become standard on the open Web. The aim, of course, is to give consumers more choice to increase the dwell time they spend on a Web site or a platform.

Feeds are increasingly becoming the OS of Web operators. 

Many users no longer reach article pages via the homepage but directly via social or via search. Giving them a wide range of topics is key to monetisation. Within these feeds, we will see more and more new formats in the future.

The point with the list of five above is to be aware of them. How we deal with our media buyers and are able to understand their world is critical to our future relationships with them —and ultimately how and who they buy their media from. It has huge implications for our future ad revenue.  

We need those buyers to trust us, just as they need their customers to trust them. 

Which brings me onto my second topic of the day ...

The business of trust 

Building trust doesnt happen on its own. We have to be consistent in our messaging, understand our buyers’ world (see my points above), and, ultimately, deliver on all our promises and assurances over time.

We should be always available to our advertisers and allow them to interact with us. Sounds obvious, right? But they often have many questions. And if there’s nowhere for them to go to (if their specific sales person is not available), they will require other ways to get their queries answered in a timely manner. Otherwise, we could begin to lose credibility.

Client support 

Provide a point of contact for all inquiries. Maybe start an online advertiser community hub (that’s checked regularly). Maybe organise an event to bring awareness to what our news brand is all about in 2023 — our values, etc.

In these ways, you can answer questions in person, a great way to increase our likability and accessibility, as well as provide assured future support to our customers.

Be honest 

Being transparent means recognising and being open about both our strengths and weaknesses. If your ad products aren’t right for one of your leads, you should be confident enough to guide that lead in the right direction — even if that act means jeopardising some evenue. It will pay off long-term.  

Honesty wins and shows you care about your clients and their needs, plus demonstrates your willingness to help them get the overall results they’re looking to achieve.

Client value 

Do you put your clients first or revenue first? 

People know when they’re just a profit centre to you. And while they may still buy from you if they believe your ad sales portfolio solves their needs, this does nothing to build long-term trust or encourage repeat sales.


Consistency ensures both your sales prospects and your existing customers know what to expect. Expectations managed. You can easily set both internal and external standards to keep the quality of service they receive from you.  

Consistency helps increase the overall value of your media company by cementing your position in the market, attracting more/better quality clients with higher retention rates, as well as raising the perceived value of your service. 

The three building blocks of ad sales consistency are brand message, design, and delivery.
The three building blocks of ad sales consistency are brand message, design, and delivery.

I see it, the three building blocks of ad sales consistency can be defined as:  

  1. Your media brand message: It should be an extension of your actions and behaviour. 
  2. Your design: Creating consistent imagery across your logo, Web site, social networks, and sales materials can help you build trust with advertisers.
  3. Your delivery: How you communicate with your clients in reaching their target audiences, clearly demonstrating your knowledge of what channels you recommend, how often etc., oozes confidence and trust in you.  

Commitment to quality 

Trust, in essence, can be a byproduct of a real commitment to quality/excellence. If we can deliver the right results to the right advertisers over the long term, they will come to believe in us and implicitly have trust in our product and services, and, importantly, in us as people.  

Never underestimate the power of this. 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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