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The optimizer wars are heating up as Zenith Media Services, New York, claims it has come up with a product that is more flexible than ones used by other media shops.

In presentations currently being made to its clients, Zenith is touting its Wizard optimizer as one that offers various weighting options depending upon an advertiser's specific needs.

Wizard was designed by Steve Perry Consultants, one of the primary architects of X*Pert, an optimizer widely used in Europe. Zenith has a deal that gives it exclusive rights to Wizard until mid-1999.

Optimizers are computer programs that allow media buyers to purchase TV time in a more efficient manner than previously possible. Data are finally being made available by Nielsen Media Research to allow the use of optimizers at U.S. media shops, and more advertisers are asking for them.


"Wizard allows us to apply different values to different TV media," said Audrey Steele, Zenith's senior VP-director of strategic media resources.

For example, she said, "Certain data on income and car purchases" could be run against a number of program genres to come up with the most efficient buys for a client. Some of the Wizard genres include NBC sitcoms, NBC Thursday night sitcoms, NBC late night, Fox dramas, ABC movies and so on.

For an automobile client, Ms. Steele said, one of these categories may be a better buy than another.

Another factor Wizard can be made to weigh, depending on client needs, is what Ms. Steele refers to as "maintenance of a buy."

"For example, on certain cable networks the integrity of the buy -- meaning the likelihood that a spot will be pre-empted -- is higher than on other cable networks," she said.

Like other shops that have implemented optimizers, Zenith said it has already seen major savings and/or efficiencies for clients.

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