AdvertisingAffiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing VS. Media Buying: What’s the Difference?

media buying vs affiliate marketing

This post is also available in: PT

You might be pretty used to thinking they are the same. In fact, some don’t even suppose there’s some difference between a media buyer and an affiliate marketer.

So where is the truth?

Overall, it will be safe to say that media buying is one of the affiliate marketing forms. But let’s first take a look at every concept, compare them — and give you some examples to make things clear once and for all.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is where a third party (an affiliate marketer) promotes offers of various businesses and earns a commission from the offer owner in case of success.

Affiliate marketing implies promoting offers by any possible (and legal) means. Some even say that ‘true’ affiliate marketing is mainly about free traffic — which means you know how to generate organic leads. 

Olga Kostenko, Account Strategist Group Team Lead at PropellerAds: the classical concept of affiliate marketing means working with affiliate programs — when you become a trusted partner who brings customers to a brand. However, it’s a very narrow definition — and you will rarely come across it in its pure form.

So, how can you do affiliate marketing? Here are some examples:

  • Instagram/YouTube/TikTok Channels: you have a popular channel where you mention products of various brands. When users buy these products using your affiliate link or promo code, you earn your commission.
  • Social Networks Comments: you post affiliate links in comments at various networks or forums, and earn a commission if these links help generate leads.
  • Emails: you have a database of relevant email addresses, and create a sales funnel by sending messages with the offer link.
  • Your own website: you have an online platform with big volumes of traffic, and publish affiliate links from various brands right there. 
  • Offline Sales: you are not limited to Internet traffic — business cards, merchandise, and even personal contacts can also drive leads.
  • Paid Traffic: this is what we offer at PropellerAds — you work with an ad network and run your offers by purchasing traffic from this network. And, while this is still affiliate marketing, you can also call it media buying.

What all these options have in common is that the key to success is content: converting creatives, engaging copy, catchy videos, attractive posts, etc.

Even when you promote your products via affiliate networks, you still test creatives and analyze which CTAs or images perform best — and this is exactly one of the main affiliate marketer’s skills.

However, running offers via an ad network is not about organic traffic — and also involves making the right decisions about your traffic price.

Example: Jack, a solo affiliate marketer, partners with an iGaming brand. As an affiliate, he promotes this brand in various ways — purchases traffic from PropellerAds and posts links in his social networks. He works on creatives and tests them.

What is Media Buying?

In fact, media buying can be one of the ways and methods you do affiliate marketing. It’s actually BUYING space for your ads — and the bigger budget you invest, the more income you might get. 

Media buying is not limited to purchasing space from online publishers (at ad networks), bloggers, and influencers. It can also include TV advertisements, street banners, offline magazines, etc. 

So, anyway, in this case, you stop being the only intermediary between users and brands — and an affiliate marketer in the traditional sense.

While your key goal in affiliate marketing is to promote an offer and make it convert, in media buying, it is to find the most suitable and profitable space for placing paid ads.

Example: A large media buying agency works with several iGaming brands. Unlike Jack, our affiliate marketer from the previous example, the agency is working with larger budgets — and its priority is to correctly spread these budgets between different offers and brands, to purchase the right amount of high-quality traffic at the best price.

Can I Combine Both?

Pretty obviously, you can. Let’s look at a case study from our Afflift Follow-Along Contest winner Nick — it might seem a bit tricky and not so obvious for a beginner — but can still be an example of how things work. 

Traffic Source: PropellerAds and Emails Database

Type of Offer: iGaming

Results: 320 email subscribers collected

Nick is an experienced affiliate marketer and media buyer, and his recent case study showed a perfect combination of these two practices.

His campaign included two important steps:

  • Step 1. Collecting email addresses with a prelander. He used PropellerAds as a traffic source for attracting leads to this prelander. This one is more about media buying — he purchased space where users can see his pre-lander link.
  • Step 2. Launching an email marketing campaign: sending promo emails, with the CTA button leading to the offer page. Here we see an example of affiliate marketing: Nick was like a representative of an iGaming brand and worked on content to engage users.

Got it?

To sum up, let’s look at the table:

Affiliate MarketingMedia Buying
Main GoalBe an intermediary between a user and an offer owner; make users convert Attract as many users as possible by getting the best place- and price-wise ad space
Traffic TypesVarious types of traffic, including organic search, social networks, paid trafficPaid ads placement
Key SkillsTargeting, copywriting, design, A/B testingGetting the cheapest and still the most profitable placement at the same time

Combing all these practices together might help scale your campaigns, drive more traffic to an offer, and achieve top possible results.

So, if you have a great flow from social networks or SEO, and want to invest some more into larger top-quality traffic — 

Do you have something to add? Or, maybe, you have a question? Then welcome to our Telegram Chat!


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