Finding Meaning in Ad Lingo

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

When it comes to industry jargon, media planning seems to have more than its fair share of business gobbledygook. And with good reason: Given the dynamic nature of the marketplace they are entrusted to evaluate, media planners must quickly develop new words and phrases to describe each new media option or twist that comes along. Think of it this way: Just as the media marketplace has expanded and fragmented, so has the lingo planners use to conceptualize it.
But what may seem like terms of art to media planning experts frequently comes across as an inscrutable lexicon to outsiders and even some planning professionals. It was for that reason one of Madison Avenue’s leading media planning thinkers compiled what may be the most comprehensive glossary of media planning terminology ever published. But the book, “Advertising Media A to Z,” is more than just a Rosetta stone for translating the sometimes complex language of media planning. It also serves as a quick, plain-English reference to some of the most basic concepts and mathematical formulas used by planning professionals.
The author of the book, Jim Surmanek, is something of a dean on the subject of media planning. He has authored several books on the topic, including what many consider to be Madison Avenue’s essential primer, the simply but aptly named “Media Planning: Introduction to Advertising Media.”
These days, Mr. Surmanek, a former media executive at major ad agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather and McCann-Erickson, spends his time evaluating the media planning and buying performance of others. He is president/CEO of Media Analysis Plus, a firm that was created to audit media shops for advertisers.
Not surprisingly, a phrase that is becoming increasingly-and uncomfortably-used among planning professionals is “audit report.” The book has two definitions for such audits. One is the traditional meaning, referring to the magazine industry’s Audit Bureau of Circulations reports. The other, more recent definition is: “Any kind of detailed information about the performance of a medium, media vehicle, or media schedule that is typically provided by an impartial third party. This can include a financial accounting of media billing and expenditures.”
While the practice is not wholly new-it’s been conducted as a routine part of the advertising business in Europe for many years-Mr. Surmanek said it is a relatively new development in the U.S. marketplace and therefore qualifies as one of several emerging phrases that are reshaping the practice of media planning. The book includes 337 pages of other emerging phrases as well as some traditional (“GRP” and “CPM”) and some archaic ones (“ADI”).
While it would be impractical to cover them all in this space, TelevisionWeek asked Mr. Surmanek to touch on some of the more dynamic terms: the ones whose usage-or lack thereof-describe some fundamental shift taking place in the field, particularly as it relates to planning TV advertising buys. Not necessarily in alphabetical order, here they are:
Attentiveness. Definition: A term used to describe how attentively people view TV by time period and by program. … The inference is that people who pay full attention to a program stand a better-than-average chance of being exposed to the commercials in that program.
Mr. Surmanek said the phrase has grown especially important-and increasingly interpretive-with the rise of TV viewing options and media planning optimizers. Like audience reach, audience attentiveness is becoming the Holy Grail of any media plan.
Effective Frequency. Definition: A level of exposure during a specified period of time to the media vehicle(s) in which an advertiser has a commercial or an advertisement.
To many, this term has already become obsolete and replaced by newer concepts of continuity planning or “recency.” According to some of the industry’s old rules of thumb, commercials had to reach a viewer a certain number of times-upward of three-plus times-for them to generate an effective frequency. The new thinking is that in most cases, a frequency of just one exposure is good enough to register a commercial exposure with a viewer.
“Effective frequency is old-hat. Today, it’s all about recency,” Mr. Surmanek explained. “In 90 percent of the cases, recency is the way to go. The only time to consider frequency now is if the campaign is introducing a new product or advertising something that might be particularly difficult to explain-something that is so complex that it might need several messages to explain what it does.”
Effective Reach. Definition: A level of delivery (reach) during a specified time period that is deemed “effective.” The level may or may not be tied to an effective frequency level.”
Marketing Mix Modeling. Definition: The application of mathematical models to “isolate the specific contribution” that each component of the marketing mix has on sales.
“This is most definitely one of the biggest developments in marketing science, and I’m amazed that more marketers are not using it,” Mr. Surmanek noted. “It is the only sound tool for assessing the return on investment for each component of the marketing plan, and even in such micro-areas as media. It can be used to look at which dayparts are producing the greatest returns on investment.”
Recency. Definition: An advertising tactic of providing reach without regard to frequency.
ROI (return on investment). Definition: The incremental sales return on the advertising expenditures invested in media. ROI can also apply to other returns, such as increases in advertising awareness and to nonmedia investments.
Of all of media planning’s new vocabulary, Mr. Surmanek said the term “ROI” promises to be the most transformational, impacting how marketers think about the value of media, how they measure the media planning performance of their agencies and how the media market their advertising inventory to marketers and agencies.
Mr. Surmanek noted that the concept of ROI is contributing to one of the biggest rifts in media planning theory: whether advertisers and agencies should plan for advertising reach or for advertising ROI-and if it is the latter, exactly what the returns for those media investments should be.