Erwin Ephron, once one of the most influential consultants shaping the way advertisers spend money to buy media, died Sunday. He was 79. Ephron's health deteriorated following a fall that resulted in a head injury earlier this year. The exact cause of death was not known at presstime, but he had been hospitalized for months following the injury.
“[He was] a brilliant, creative, hard-working writer who stimulated all to think more clearly about media,” said Gale Metzger, a long-time friend and associate who led an investigation to find him when Ephron was hospitalized and dropped out of public sight. When he was finally located, he was described as being in poor physical and mental health that belied the brilliance and quick wit he was known for in the decades he helped shape the underlying theories of media planning theory.
Ephron, who began his career as a PR man for Nielsen, and worked for and owned several advertising agencies, became one of the advertising industry's most influential consultants during the late 1980s and through the 1990s and early 2000s as major advertisers and agencies were trying to come to grips with the impact that the hyper fragmentation of media and accelerating advertising costs were having on the most fundamental theories of media-planning theory, including the backbone of “reach and frequency.” In its place, Ephron championed a more radical notion he dubbed “recency,” which freed big marketers from the notion that they had to spend exorbitant amounts of money in an attempt to reach everyone all the time. Instead, recency planning argued that the new model for media planning was to reach consumers when they were most likely to be in-market for a brand’s advertising message.
Through his writing, public speaking and behind-the-scenes consultation work, Ephron helped to change many of the notions of media planning, which likely shifted billions of dollars
in advertising spending over more than a decade. During the 1990s, he reached near-rock star status in media planning circles, and even toured the country in a series of speaking engagement with
compatriot John Philip Jones, a former adman and university professor who shared Ephron's views about how media planning and buying was changing.
In a sample of his most "quotable quotes," Ephron published the following compilation in his own newsletter, "The Ephron Letter:"
February 1998 – There is no truth here. There are only better or poorer measurements.
October 1998 - If the schedule runs as ordered you're probably paying too much.
February 1999 – The worst effect of an information monopoly is Ignorance.
May 2000 – The upfront is rooted in scarcity and fear.
June 2001 – No matter how much more effective one medium is at the start, there comes a point where the next dollar should be spent elsewhere.
August 2002 – Advertising is too often like buying a melon where you have to spend the money to find out if it’s any good...Intelligent auditing is a simple way to reduce the risk.
February 2003 – Different media can do different things. That’s why we use them.
March 2004 - The role of most advertising is to nudge people towards one of the brands they already know, when they are ready to buy.
June 2005 – Frequency is crabgrass.
August 2006 – Engagement is not a media problem. The simple model is “media deliver consumers, ads produce response."