“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
How many times have you heard this saying? How many times have you lived it?
The fact is, there are billions of impressions to be made every day, many of which are fleeting, and most just won’t register.
This means if you don’t make an irresistible first impression, you’re not just losing a customer — you might be missing out on a lifelong relationship.
The same goes for your brand or business: If you want to be unforgettable, it’s not enough to do something once and hope it sticks. You have to make a lasting impression over and over again or every time someone sees your brand or business.
The key is to give people something great when they need it — to anticipate their needs before they even get to learn about them and deliver what they want before they ask for it. It’s what successful brands do.
The first step is to make sure you have all the tools you need to put your message in the best possible light every time.
And using these top media planning tools is what will help keep your marketing strategy — and ultimately, your business — on track.
What’s Media Planning?
Media planning is the process of picking what media outlets you want your marketing or promotional message to appear on or where your ads will run. This should include everything from online media planning (paid search and display) to TV or radio planning, with print, radio, direct mail, email, and outdoor advertising, as well.
The media plan is usually a single sheet that details the purpose or goal of your marketing strategy, the target market you’re trying to reach, and a sum-up of each media outlet’s demographics.
Media Planning Back then and Media Planning Now
Media planning has come a long way since it was invented in the 1950s—and so has its tools.
It used to Be You only Had 5 Channels
Back then, there were five traditional media channels: newspaper, radio, magazines and direct mail. And they dictated every step of the marketing process from media planning to campaign execution. This meant a typical media plan included detailed information on reach (the number of people who would see your ads) and frequency (repeated exposure to your message).
Today, the number of channels has exploded—and with it, the number of options for media planning.
More than $7 trillion is spent on the worldwide advertising industry each year. That’s a lot of money to manage, come to think about it.
So, how do you ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck? And how can you navigate this expanding universe of media options to meet your business needs?
The following top 25 media planning tools will help you find what you need and how to get it at a reasonable price. They’ll also help you understand where, when, how often and for whom your message should be seen or heard
Selecting the right tools for your business—and implementing them nimbly and responsibly—is the best way to make sure your brand shows up exactly when, where and how it’s supposed to.
The Top 20 Media Planning Tools You Need
1) Kantar Media Planning Tool
Kantar Media is a well-known name in media planning, especially for its proprietary tool that helps you evaluate audiences across all major advertising channels (or “media”) including print, TV, radio and digital content.
Their online planning tool also gives you access to competitive information, so you can see what your competitors are planning. If you want to know where the media spending in your industry is allocated, this tool will tell you exactly that.
- Who is spending the most on TV, radio and online advertising?
- How does your company’s ad compare to your competitors in terms of reach, frequency and branding?
- What is your share of voice and brand exposure?
Strength: If you produce a lot of media content every year, this tool is great for checking up on your competitors. You’ll also find rich demographic and behavioural data to help you focus your efforts.
Weakness: The interface can be confusing if you aren’t used to viewing figures in clusters. It requires a certain level of analytical acumen to navigate the data and come up with useful conclusions.
Pricing: The Kantar Media Planning Tools is free to use, but many of their services aren’t—and can get very pricey.
2) AdGrok Media Planning Tool
This image-heavy online media planner has a lot to offer marketers looking for an easy way to make those initial decisions about where their message will appear and how often folks will see it.
Thanks to its simplicity, this media planning tool is especially good for businesses that need to create a marketing campaign on the fly—and then iterate quickly. As you drag and drop your images onto the template, you can start to see what elements are working well (or not) with specific demographics.
- It’s easy to use—even if you’re not a designer!
- The interface is colour-coded and helps you make quick comparisons between different formats.
Strength: This is an easy-to-use media planning tool, and best of all, it’s free to use.
Weakness: While there are great tools out there for media planning and various demographics, this tool doesn’t give you a lot of detailed data; in fact, the main metric is “reach” or how many people your campaign will reach. If your goal is branding (or any other complex metric), we suggest you look for a different media planner.
Pricing: FREE (and it’s user-friendly)
3) Ad Planner from Yahoo!
Yahoo! is a name that’s synonymous with the web—and they’re not one for letting newcomers come up on top. Although it only runs in Firefox or Internet Explorer, the Ad Planner lets you analyse your competition, as well as discover new marketing opportunities. One of my favourite features is the “In My Network” button, which lets you see ads that your friends have clicked on and other sites they’ve visited.
- Another thing I like about Ad Planner is how easy it is to tailor your searches for specific demographics.
- Once you decide what you want to target, you can create a campaign based on the information you’ve gathered.
Strength: Other users’ browsing habits are great for learning about other demographics that might be interested in your product or brand. This is beneficial even if you don’t plan on targeting these groups—it’s always good to be aware of who your competitors are.
Weaknesses: The Ad Planner is more of a research tool than an actual media planning tool; you’ll have to export the data from the website and input it into another planner. There’s also no easy-to-read report at the end unless you plan on going into Excel or Word and creating one yourself.
Pricing: The ad planner is free to use, but it requires that you sign up for an account first. And not just this: you have to create an account to use their other planning tools as well.
4) Rubicon Project Media Planner Tool
Rubicon Project is more than just an advertising exchange. They also provide performance marketing tools for brands. Their media planner allows you to easily enter data about your business and get recommendations based on the information you’ve provided, as well as your goals.
- Another great feature of the Rubicon Planner is that it comes with a handy set of tutorials to guide you through the planning process.
- The algorithm that powers Rubicon’s planner is flexible, so it can take into account more specific data points such as how much impressions cost for each ad unit type, or whether your campaign will run on a mobile device.
Strength: The media planners from Rubicon Project are easy to use and will help you figure out best practices for your campaign—whether that’s what types of ads to use, which audiences would benefit from your product/service, or how much budget to allocate.
Weakness: I haven’t been able to find a comprehensive analysis of my campaign in one place. This can make it a bit more difficult to track your campaign’s performance overall.
Pricing: The Rubicon Project Media Planner Tool is free to use, and you don’t have to create an account first. The rest of their tools are also free; once you sign up, you can access them from the navigation bar on the left-hand side of any page.
5) The Trade Desk’s Planning Tool
The Trade Desk is a platform that lets you connect with consumers through real-time bidding, mobile advertising, and other ad exchanges. It contains several media planners to help you plan your marketing campaigns—from basic behavioural targeting to more advanced retargeting (which allows you to target viewers who have already visited your site once).
- The Trade Desk’s planners are flexible and can take custom data points into account when planning your campaign.
- You don’t need to create an account to use their planners—just navigate to the “planning” tab and you’re ready to go! Similarly, there is no limit on what number of plans you can create. This means that once your campaign is over, you can either save it for future reference or delete it.
Strength: The Trade Desk allows you to upload different versions of the same ad creative to test which one performs best—an essential feature when it comes to creating ads. If one of the ads in your campaign underperforms, you can easily replace it and increase the overall performance.
Weakness: Currently, The Trade Desk’s planners are only available in English. They’re also relatively new, so there isn’t much data from other companies’ campaigns to use as a benchmark for your planning process.
Pricing: You don’t have to pay anything to use The Trade Desk’s planners.
6) Clicky Publisher Studio
If you’re looking for something a bit more robust, then the Clicky Publisher Studio might be right up your alley. It helps you analyze where your audience is coming from and how they engage with your site, as well as which ad units are bringing in the most conversions. It also lets you create custom reports to figure out how effective your marketing campaigns have been.
- You can use Clicky Publisher Studio to test different ad units and see which one performs best.
- Once you’ve figured out what types of ads are most successful on your site, you can determine where they’ll bring in the most money and increase your earnings
- You can easily create custom reports that track where your visitors are located, what browser they’re using, what pages they’ve visited on your site, and more.
Strength: Clicky Publisher Studio also lets you create campaigns based on multiple ad units—not just AdSense and AdBrite, but other networks like Mediavine and TradeDoubler.
Weakness:There’s currently no way to import data from another system (such as Google Analytics). This means that you can’t automatically generate reports based on the same information if you’re switching to Clicky Publisher Studio. You’ll have to manually enter your content to analyze it.
Pricing: Since Clicky Publisher Studio is part of the Clicky Web Analytics Platform, you get the first 250,000 pageviews for free each month. This lets you try out their product before you decide whether or not it’s worth paying for.
7) iSpot.tv Planning Tool
iSpot.tv lets you search by a TV channel, program or time to find national ad airings. It’s an effective way to figure out what types of ads run at different times and on which channels.
- iSpot.tv is free, and can search ads as far back as January 1, 2013.
- You can search both paid and unpaid marketing campaigns—a feature that most other planning tools don’t offer.
Strength: You can see what ads are airing at different times and on which channels—perhaps even get inspiration for your own marketing campaign. This means that if you’re looking to advertise in a specific place, iSpot.tv makes it easy to find the most cost-effective time slots.
Weakness: Currently, there are no advanced features for creating and optimizing media plans. You can only watch TV, save the ads you see, and track your campaigns.
Pricing: iSpot.tv is completely free to use.
8) Springboard Media Target Planning Tool
Springboard Media Target lets you import data from other sources—like Google Analytics—and analyze it to create more effective marketing campaigns.
- It can generate reports based on the performance of your specific campaign and its different components.
- It has an extremely simple interface that lets you easily save new ads, tweak existing ones, and upload creative elements into a well-organized library.
- You can visually analyze your ad campaigns and even test different creative elements to see which ones are most successful.
Strength: Springboard Media Target lets you import data from Google Analytics or Adobe Site Catalyst so that you can view all of your content in one place. This means that it’ll be easier to create reports based on the data that’s relevant to your site, as well as create more effective marketing campaigns.
Weakness: Springboard Media Target doesn’t have an easy way to report on the social media activity surrounding your marketing campaigns. You can only see how many people are engaging with your ads after they’ve been published and run in front of their eyes.
Pricing: Springboard Media Target is a paid product, starting at $199 per month.
9) Outbrain Planning Tool
Outbrain is one of the biggest native advertising platforms on the web. It’s used by thousands of companies to drive their ad campaigns. You can use this tool to identify which ads are most effective and take notes on other pieces of content that are performing well.
- It’s one of the most popular native advertising platforms on the web. This means that Outbrain is used by hundreds of thousands of marketers to drive their ad campaigns.
- You can save outbrain ads and upload creative elements into an organized library to easily access them later.
- Outbrain has an advanced analytics dashboard, which lets you view data related to individual campaigns and experiment with new types of ads.
Strength: Outbrain allows you to access useful information about the ad campaigns that currently running on their platform. This way, you can see what’s performing well and replicate it for your own marketing campaigns.
Weakness: Some users report that Outbrain’s platform interface is a bit outdated. It doesn’t have the features you’d expect from modern software, so it may take some time to get used to using this tool.
Pricing: The basic plan costs $500 per month, with additional fees for more features.
10) CoSchedule Ad Planning Tool
CoSchedule is a tool that’s specifically engineered for content marketers, but it can also be used to plan and execute ad campaigns with ease. The platform makes it easy to monitor your social media presence and schedule posts in advance. In addition, it can help you determine which types of content generate the best ROI.
Strength: CoSchedule makes it easy to create a calendar that details when each piece of content will be published, so you can strategically organize your editorial planning. In addition, it has an SEO-powerhouse dashboard where you can view how many people are engaging with your content, as well as how many backlinks a piece of content is generating.
Weakness: CoSchedule isn’t a native advertising platform. While it can help you plan and execute ad campaigns with ease, it doesn’t give you the analytics dashboard that you need to review data from other sources.
Pricing: CoSchedule is a paid product, with plans starting at $69 per month.
11) AdStage Ad Planning Tool
AdStage is an exceptional native advertising platform that’s easy to use and features a ton of great tools for managing ad campaigns. You can easily find ads that are running and create a library of the most effective ones. In addition, you can view individual keywords to see how well they’re performing.
Strength: AdStage’s ad placement tool makes it easy to find new sites where your ads can be published. You can search by keyword, so you don’t have to waste time browsing articles and websites that don’t match your target audience.
Weakness: AdStage doesn’t have an in-depth analytics dashboard that lets you dig into clickthrough rates, ad performance data and other metrics. This way, it’s difficult to analyze the effectiveness of your ads and measure how well they’re performing on different networks.
Pricing: AdStage is a paid product, with plans starting at $79 per month.
12) Bronto Ad Planning Tool
Bronto gives you the tools you need to understand your customers and follow up with them on social media – making it an excellent option for ad planning.
- Bronto organizes customer data into a single repository, so the information is easy to access when you’re creating campaigns.
- You can identify which customers are most likely to respond to certain types of ads, and segment them accordingly.
- You can use Bronto’s tagging system to track which customers have responded to your ads. This way, you know exactly where they received the ad and can replicate it for similar prospects.
- Bronto has a customer monitoring tool that lets you monitor social media channels for mentions of your business. You can then engage with these customers by sending them personalized messages through Bronto.
Strength: Bronto’s social listening tool is one of the best in the industry. It gives you a comprehensive understanding of how your business is performing on various platforms, so you know exactly what to do next.
Weakness: Bronto doesn’t come with any native advertising tools. As a result, it’s difficult to create ads and run campaigns. You’ll have to find another platform, such as AdStage or Unruly, to do this for you.
Pricing: Bronto is a paid product, with plans starting at $276 per month.
13) Infolinks Ad Planning Tool
Infolinks can help you run high-quality display ads – so it’s a great option for competitors who are looking to get involved in the native advertising game.
- You can use Infolinks’ audience insights to find new audiences and understand how well your ads are performing.
- Infolinks has a wide variety of ad formats, with customizable options for each one of them.
Strength: Infolinks lets you create ads in just a few clicks. There are no complicated tools to navigate – the process is extremely straightforward.
Weakness: Infolinks doesn’t come with an ad-tracking dashboard, which means you won’t be able to see how the ads are performing unless you integrate it with another platform.
Pricing: Infolinks is a paid product, with plans starting at $150 per month.
14) AdParlor Ad Planning Tool
AdParlor is an excellent option for those who want to create native ads – as it facilitates this process.
- AdParlor allows you to search through several ad formats and find ones that are compatible with your goals.
- You can use AdParlor’s native ad builder to create content that blends in with the rest of the site. This way, people won’t have a hard time determining whether they’re looking at an ad or engaging with content.
Strength: AdParlor’s native ad builder is a great option for those who need to advertise on social media sites. It allows you to create ads that look like they are part of your site.
Weakness: AdParlor doesn’t have advanced ad-planning capabilities. You’ll need to use additional tools to do this for you.
Pricing: AdParlor is a paid product, with plans starting at $100 per month.
15) AdHaven Ad Planning Tool
AdHaven’s key selling point is its extensive database of native ad creative options – making it great for ad planning.
- AdHaven has a large collection of ads that are already being used by businesses. You can use these to get inspiration for your next campaign.
- You can upload your existing creative and create a library of content for future campaigns.
Strength: AdHaven has an excellent library of pre-made creative, which will save you tons of time when creating new ads.
Weakness: You can’t use AdHaven for media planning. Instead, you can only create ads and upload them using the platform’s tools.
Pricing: AdHaven is a paid product, with plans starting at $30 per month.
16) The Content Marketing Institute Content Planning Tool
The Content Marketing Institute wants to help you achieve content marketing goals. And as such, provides a bunch of awesome tools.
- You can use its webinars and email courses to learn about the tricks of the trade.
- It also has a blog with several useful posts – that can be used to find new ideas for your campaigns.
Strength: The Content Marketing Institute has a variety of valuable resources, such as webinars and email courses, which are great tools for learning about native advertising.
Weakness: You won’t be able to use these resources in the paid version of the platform – you’ll need to be a member of the free program to have access to them.
Pricing: The Content Marketing Institute is free.
17) Unmetric Media Planning Tool
Unmetric generates insights about your competitors and their digital marketing strategies. This way, you have a better sense of what your market is doing – making it easier to create ads that will resonate with consumers.
Strength: Unmetric can be used for competitor intelligence and media planning. You’ll get a detailed report about the keywords your competitors are using in their ads, as well as information on their social media presence.
Weakness: Unmetric can’t be used for ad planning. The only thing you’ll be able to do is using it for competitor intelligence.
Pricing: Unmetric is a paid product, with plans starting at $199 per month.
18) Adify Ad Planning Tool
Adify is a native ad development and management platform.
- You can browse through its library of content to find cool ads that will inspire your campaigns.
- You can create new ad formats by using the platform’s native ad builder.
Strength: Adify’s library of content can be used for ad planning purposes. You’ll get access to thousands of images and videos that you can use in your creatives.
Weakness: Unfortunately, Adify doesn’t have any kind of tool for media planning – so you’ll need to find a different platform to do this. Also, you’ll need to pay to use the platform – it’s a paid product.
Pricing: Adify is a paid product, with plans starting at $49 per month.
19) MediaRadar Media Planning Tool
MediaRadar wants to help you find the perfect ad units for your campaigns.
- It has a database of over 20,000 native ad formats – that can be used for inspiration.
- You can use its tools to create ads based on popular templates.
Strength: MediaRadar is great at finding new ad ideas, thanks to its library of native ad formats. It’ll be easy for you to find new ideas when using this platform.
Weakness: You won’t be able to use MediaRadar for media planning – so it’s not the best option if you’re looking for a complete solution.
Pricing: MediaRadar is free.
20) Plista Media Planning Tool
Plista lets you plan media campaigns quickly and easily – by using a very simple tool.
- It has an easy-to-use interface that lets you filter between different platforms
- It has a ‘Click to Try’ feature, which lets you see how your ads will look on different sites.
Strength: Plista is simple and easy to use – making it one of the most comprehensive native ad creatives planners out there. You won’t have any problem using its tool.
Weakness: Unfortunately, Plista doesn’t have any kind of content library – so you won’t be able to use it for ad planning. However, all hope is not lost – Plista has an API that lets you integrate the platform with other digital marketing tools.
Pricing: Plista is a free tool.