What is Media Sales?

By: Paul Santello

I’m an Atheneum Collective Expert. But what does that mean?

I’m here because I’ve spent my career on every side of the advertising agency world, learned some lessons, and I want to encourage more people succeed in this industry. As an Atheneum Collective Expert, I am currently focused on helping professionals improve their media sales game. So I created an online course: Winning More Business For Media Sellers.

That’s all fine and well if you understand what a media seller is, or even what we mean when we say “media.” Even the word “media” has different meanings. So let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re talking about “Media” as it relates to the Advertising Industry, and more specifically, within an advertising agency.

There are two major types of ad agencies out there: the creative agency and the media agency. They play different roles in getting the ads you see online, on billboards, and on TV in front of you. The creative agency decides what to say to you. They come up with the main message, the story, the look and feel of the ad. When you see a television ad, hear an ad on a streaming music station like Pandora, see a video ad on your mobile phone, or a message on a billboard—that was done by a creative agency.

The media agency decides where you will see the ad, how many other people like you need to see it, and how many times you all need to see it to reach the threshold of wanting to buy the product. So, if you see a TV ad while watching “The Voice,” or hear an ad while listening to Pandora, or see a large billboard on the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, it is the media agency that decided to place it there. They placed it there because they track your demographic, what you are watching and listening to, and know how to reach you. The media agency spends their time studying the habits of their target customers and is looking for places to deliver the ads. These places are generally referred to as “ad inventory.” This is where the media seller comes in.

The media seller represents the advertising inventory where an ad can be placed. Think about all of the places you see ads—on TV, streaming radio, billboards, mass transit, your laptop, your mobile phone, social media… the list goes on. The media seller’s job is to convince the media agency that they should buy their inventory to reach their desired audience. If you work for a TV network like ABC, you’re selling TV inventory, which is mostly 30 seconds of commercial airtime that occurs during and in-between shows. If you work for a digital company like Hulu, you could be selling any digital ad that appears on the Hulu website, or any ads that appear during Hulu programming. As a media seller, it’s your job to know everything about the audience you reach with your ads, and to convince the media agency, who is trying to reach your audience, that they should buy your inventory.

A good media seller is comfortable with complex numbers, quantitative analyses, spreadsheets, and is very detail oriented. But, because a media seller also has to network, cultivate relationships, and give presentations, they should also be extroverted, good at conversing with different types of people, and feel comfortable with public speaking.

Hopefully this is a start to making sense of the media world. If this sounds interesting to you, check out my course, Winning More Business for Media Sellers, available now.


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