The main purpose of an advertising media plan is to create the optimal, not necessarily maximal, advertising buy for a business. Quantity is not as important as quality when it comes to advertising, and an effective media plan addresses factors such as budget, reach, frequency, repetition and seasonality.

Media Plans

Advertising media plans are calendars that lay out your advertising purchases, taking into account viewer, reader, listener and visitor demographics, frequency of your advertising, gross vs. net impressions and your budget. A complete media plan includes your ad run dates, costs, number of impressions and audience demographics.


A media plan should include the dates your ads will run, letting you see if you are spending your budget correctly, based on the seasonality of your sales. The calendar will help you determine if you need to spread your planned buys out or concentrate them into fewer weeks or months.

Frequency and Repetition

It is often better to let fewer potential customers see your ads multiple times, rather than to let more people see your ad only once. A rule of thumb in advertising is to get in front of your target customer at least three times with your advertising. Many people won’t act immediately on your ad the first time they see it. If they see your ad issue after issue in a magazine, or see your product on a website, in a magazine and at a sporting event, your message will stay in their minds longer. When they are ready to use your type of product or service, they will be more likely to think of you. Effective media plans try to create repetition either with frequent ads or multiple ads placed strategically throughout the year.


Each time a person sees your ad, you have created one impression. If 10,000 people see your ad once, you have created 10,000 gross impressions. If the second time you run your ad, 10,000 people see it, but 5,000 see it for the first time, your two ads have created 20,000 gross impressions and 15,000 net impressions. When planning your advertising buys, take into account the number of gross and net impressions it creates to ensure you get the optimal coverage you want, or mix of the maximum exposure that also creates repetition.


If your advertising is tied to sales revenues, a media plan will help you budget your annual spending. Knowing what months or times of the year you will have less money will allow you to spend your advertising dollars more effectively as you target the right media buys. Your media plan should let you compare media buys by their CPM, or cost per thousand. This is the cost to reach 1,000 potential customers. If two different radio stations have different spot prices and audience numbers, determining your CPM will allow you easily compare them financially. If you are submitting your media plan to superiors for approval, providing CPMs for media outlets you didn’t choose can help justify your decisions.

Audience Demographics

Each entry in a media plan should include the demographics of the medium’s audience. This will help you see how you are reaching each type of customer throughout the year. If you have a limited customer target, such as single women ages 22 to 35, you will purchase only media that reach these women. If you sell men’s, women’s and family products, you will need to segment your advertising to reach each audience optimally.