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In advertising the term "media" refers to communication vehicles such as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, billboards, direct mail and the Internet. Advertisers use media to convey commercial messages to their target audiences, and the media depend to different degrees on advertising revenue to cover the cost of their operations.

The media are usually classified into either mass or niche media. Newspapers, magazines, TV and radio are considered mass media because they deliver messages to a widespread, anonymous audience. The wide coverage of the mass media makes them ideal vehicles for advertisers that need to reach a large audience.

Advertising media such as cable TV and direct mail are often viewed as "niche" media because they reach a narrowly defined audience with unique demographic characteristics or special interests.

Direct mail, the No. 2 ad medium in the U.S. in 2001, offers more flexibility in terms of precision targeting and content customization. Direct mail can be used to reach almost every consumer with personalized messages.

The Internet is different from conventional advertising media in several respects. First, it can serve as not only a communications channel but also a transaction and distribution channel. Second, the Internet is by nature interactive; it is a two-way communication, with the Internet serving as a provider of customized content that meets an individual's needs. Third, it has the capacity for multimedia content, carrying not only text and graphics, but also audio and video content.

The multimedia nature of the Internet is suitable for high-impact advertising. The Internet has become an integral part of the media mix for many advertisers, and new forms of advertising have filled the World Wide Web landscape, including animated banner ads, sponsor logos, interstitials, "advertorials," "advertainment" and 3-D visualization.

Media costs

Advertising rates are more stable for print media than broadcast media largely because print media can adjust the number of ad pages on an issue-to-issue basis while broadcast media have a fixed amount of daily programming hours. Thus, demand by advertisers has a stronger impact on the rates for broadcast time. Newspaper space is usually sold according to rate cards; buyers of large volumes get discounted rates. Magazine space is sold similarly.

Advertising rates for radio and TV are normally determined through negotiation and often vary by the time of day. A 30-second spot on network TV costs the most in prime time (8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern U.S. time zone) and the least during daytime (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Advertisers use CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and CPP (cost per rating point) to compare media costs. CPM is used for both print and electronic media, while CPP is more common with electronic media. CPM is calculated by multiplying the unit cost of a media vehicle by 1,000 and dividing the result by the audience size of the vehicle.

The unit cost of a media vehicle is the cost for a single ad placement in that vehicle. For example, if a 30-second spot in a TV program costs $5,000 and the program has an audience of 250,000, then CPM for the commercial is $20. CPP is calculated by dividing the unit cost of the media vehicle by the rating of the vehicle. If a 30-second spot costs $5,000 and the program in which it runs has a rating of 10 in the market, CPP for the commercial will be $500. CPP can also be used to compare newspaper or magazine costs if the audience is described as a percentage.

Media planning and buying

"Media planning" is the process of selecting time and space in various media for advertising in order to accomplish marketing objectives. Media planners often use three terms in describing a planning process: objectives, strategy and tactics. A media objective states what the planner wishes to accomplish. It is usually specified in terms of the target audience, reach and frequency. The target audience is often defined by demographics, product usage and psychographics. Reach refers to the unduplicated proportion of an audience that is exposed to a media schedule (not necessarily to the advertising message) at least once during a designated time period (usually four weeks). Frequency refers to the number of times within a given period an audience is exposed to a media schedule.

A media strategy specifies the means for achieving the media objectives. A strategic decision is how to allocate the media budget geographically; that is, deciding in which markets to advertise and how much to spend in each of these markets. A defensive media strategy allocates more money in a market where sales are high, whereas an offensive strategy allocates more money in a market where sales are low but there is potential to grow.

Media tactics consist primarily of the activities of selecting media vehicles in the most cost-effective manner to ensure the successful execution of media strategies. Among the criteria for selecting media vehicles are target audience delivery, cost efficiency, the editorial environment, advertising clutter, reproduction quality and ad positions with the vehicle.

Media plans are implemented through media buyers who are knowledgeable in estimating media costs and skillful in negotiating rates. Media buyers also monitor the implementation of a media plan to assure its value is fully realized.

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