Preparing a media agency brief is a crucial step for a brand or marketing manager.  It can mean the difference between a brilliant revert and completely unguided guess, the difference between an effective 1- or 2-week process, or a completely ineffective months-long drawn out saga.

1. Define the task for the media agency brief

Nothing is worse than a brief wherein the objective is “grow sales”, “increase market share” or, even worse, “awareness”.

First ask yourself: what are the reasons why some consumers aren’t interested in buying your products or services (what are their barriers to buying)?  If you’re looking through rose-tinted glasses, you might come only up with only reasons why consumers are buying as opposed to why some are not.

The next step is to be selective.  You can’t expect the media agency, in one campaign, to tackle each and every single consumer issue in one go.  This will usually lead to a frenetic and unfocussed campaign.  Pick one, two, or three key issues which you know you can tackle.

Avoid media-speak.  Terms like “frequency”, “awareness”, or “impact” were coined during media in the dark ages and have little input to the media planning process.

Assume we are selling a fictional Widgets to Smurfs, and you’ve defined that the reason why some Smurfs don’t buy your Widgets is because they think they are too expensive and others won’t buy them because they think they aren’t durable enough to last long.  Here are some good examples of issues to share with your media agency:

  • Convince Smurfs that the Widget is priced lower than competitor offerings
  • Convince Smurfs that the Widget has been tested and proven to last longer than competitors


2. Be clear about the target market

Don’t use TV-buying target markets as your target in the media agency brief.  They are too broad and don’t give enough focus.  TV-buying targets are intentionally broad because the research behind TV-buying is mostly only defined by demographics.  A TV-buying target market is something like Housewives LSM 6-10 (or, in the UK, Housewives ABC1) and the media agency will determine this target market based on your brief – you don’t need to prompt it.

Media agencies have wonderful sophisticated data (like TGI, BrandMapp, AMPs and Effective Measure) which can pin-point consumers based on not only demographics but more importantly psychographics.  If your target consumer is a tree-hugging, yoga-loving, divorcee single-mum, then share this and the media agency can negotiate the data to find the best way to target that market.

Assuming we are selling a four-door family saloon car designed for kids and outdoor activities.

  • TV-buying target market: LSM 8-10 Men
  • A good target market to give in the brief: Anyone with children living at home, who has sufficient disposable income to afford the car payment or upfront purchase, who enjoys outdoor pursuits and who currently drives one of the competitor cars.


3. Set a clear outcome 

I jokingly once put in a media agency brief: “we want more people to buy more of our products, more often, for a higher price”.  This is neither original, nor helpful.

In your marketing campaign, you hopefully have a clear idea in your plan of what success looks like.  For example, we want to increase sales from 10,000 units per month to 12,000 units per month or we want to increase consumption from 1 unit per person per month to 2 unites per person per month.  You may want to increase the amount of people who consider your brand “cool” from 15% to 25% over the 12-month period.  Share this with your media agency – it is helpful.

That is, though, for the overall marketing campaign.   Work with your media agency to set clear objectives for what success looks like for the media campaign.  What metrics do you want to put in place to gauge whether the media campaign was a success?

Remember SMART. All objectives need to be:

Specific | Measurable | Attainable | Realistic | Time-based


4. Make sure your creative people and your media people get along

Logic is to Magic as Media is to Creative.  Both are interlinked and yet so often they are treated separately.  If your key media person and your key creative person aren’t in regular contact and don’t have a healthy working relationship, you’re going to be in a difficult situation.

Agencies like to layer the process with account managers, client service teams and various other intermediaries. Sometimes it helps to get the key people who are doing the actual work together – for a good coffee or even a beer: ‘media agency brief’ doesn’t mean a dull piece of paper written on a company template, it can also mean a meeting of minds and hopefully the start of something great.  If you leave the meeting knowing that they have a relationship strong enough to call each other throughout the process, then you’ll have a much more cohesive project down the line.


Passionate Media Comms Planner with 18 years’ media and marketing experience, having occupied client-side media roles in the United Kingdom (Diageo), Ireland (Diageo) and South Africa (Diageo and First National Bank), and agency-side media strategy roles at MediaCom, OMD, and MEC.