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True North Communications' TN Media has developed a research tool called Opticom that allows it to add commercial exposure data to an "optimizer" computer program.

Most such programs are designed to maximize the reach of an advertiser's TV commercials by using data on viewing habits, taking into account the cost of the time. But media research executives have noted one limitation is that if optimizers are programmed solely in that way, such factors as dayparts and viewing environment are not taken into consideration.

John McSherry, director of media research, and Steve Sternberg, director of broadcast research, designed Opticom, a program to be used with the standard "reach" optimizer. Both executives formerly worked at BJK&E Media, the unit of Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt that has been merged into TN Media.

Optimizers have been used in Europe for some time, and have only begun to be used in the U.S.


The two executives spent six months working out the details of Opticom, at the urging of Michael Drexler, the president of BJK&E Media who is now chairman of TN Media.

"This is the most important project Steve and I have ever worked on," Mr. McSherry said.

The premise of Opticom is that equal ratings points within and across dayparts do not have equal impact for a variety of reasons, including the amount of time a viewer spends watching a show and viewer loyalty.

Therefore, Messrs. McSherry and Sternberg determined a reach optimizer must somehow incorporate maximal viewer commercial exposure so audience delivery to targeted consumers can be fully realized. Using standard Nielsen Media Research data measured in half-hour increments, Opticom gauges the percentage of time a show is viewed.

"The longer someone watches a show, the more commercial exposures you get," said Mr. Sternberg.


Opticom also measures viewer loyalty, similar to a program used by DDB Needham Worldwide's Optimum Media unit. However, Opticom is different than most conventional measures in that it defines loyal viewers as those viewing two out of three episodes of a TV series.

"Today, considering three out of five or some other measurement as the definition of loyalty is just not realistic," said Mr. McSherry.

Also, using data from Simmons Market Research Bureau, program attentiveness is measured to maximize ad recall. And-using data from Mediamark Research Inc., Simmons or the client-product-purchase information is included to determine delivery of consumers actually buying the product.


Based on a sample of 1,500 people, TN Media devised a formula to decide how much to weight each of the four Opticom factors: number of minutes watched; viewer loyalty; a viewer's attentiveness to a program; and delivery of consumers actually buying the product.

In order to make Opticom useful during the annual upfront marketplace for the next TV season, TN figured a way to make projections about new shows. It came up with 15 different program types, and shows are grouped by ratings within each type.

In one real-life test of a national TV commercial flight, budgeted at $4.3 million, the executives said that Opticom lowered cost-per-thousand almost 8% by switching just five spots worth $850,000, at the same time increasing impressions by about the same percentage as well as increasing reach 4% and frequency 3.2%.

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