Media planners look beyond the numbers

David Poltrack

In the past year media planning tools labelled 'optimisers' have taken the US TV advertising market by storm. These planning tools, imported adaptations of the optimisers already established in Europe, have stimulated the first substantial re-examination of the media planning process in the US.

This article does not address the impact of, or outlook for, optimisers on the US TV advertising market. Instead, it focuses on a by-product of the use of optimisers by media planners: the re-focusing of advertisers on the qualitative dimension of media evaluation.

Even before the advent of optimisers, three factors had led to the qualitative dimension of TV programme evaluation by advertisers becoming more important. The first is the fragmentation of the TV audience. As the audiences to individual programmes get smaller and smaller, the absolute differences in the sizes of these audiences shrink. This results in less quantitative differentiation between audiences which, in turn, increases the weight of qualitative dimensions of audience measurement in media evaluation.