Counting Counts: Six Reasons Everyone Must Read Erwin Ephron's Book 'Media Planning'

  • by , Featured Contributor, January 2, 2014
I was so moved by the speeches at last month’s memorial service for Erwin Ephron that I bought a new copy of his extraordinary book on how media works, “Media Planning: From Recency to Engagement,” hoping for a quick refresher. Surprisingly, I got much, much more than that.

When I read (or, most probably, skimmed) “Media Planning” six years ago, I knew virtually nothing about the real workings of the television ad industry. I was a digital guy and didn’t really think I needed to try to get under the covers of television media concepts, assuming that they would go away as soon as digital technology and concepts reshaped  -- and replaced -- them.

Today, having spent the past five-plus years working in TV media, and learning about the field’s power, its nuances and subtleties, I have a very different perspective. Reading Ephron’s book over this past holiday really brought this home for me.  Certainly, there is no better book to prepare someone to understand what the media and ad industries must do to successfully navigate the digital transformation they are undergoing today.



In “Media Planning,” Erwin Ephron asked (and answered) the questions at the root of advertising and its future perspective: How does advertising work? Why does media selection seem so irrational? Why does recency work? Why does reach always trump frequency? Why are current media measurement models so problematic? And my personal favorite: Why is media planning a conspiracy?

If you care to be successfully employed and productive in our industry for any meaningful amount of time in the future, you must read (or reread) “Media Planning.” Here’s why:

You will better understand the importance of measurement in media. Ephron starts and ends his book by discussing the importance of measurement. He begins with Bill Harvey’s invention of the ADI, and finishes with a quote from Lord Kelvin that was also a favorite of Art Nielsen’s: “If you can measure a thing then you know something of it.”

Most concise collection ever put together. No one else has written a book as concise, focused, comprehensive -- and comprehensible -- on the topic of how media is planned and bought.

You'll better understand what's wrong with media today. Ephron was on a mission to make our industry better. He truly understood its challenges and opportunities, and he chronicles them well here. Reading the book will help you understand how and why all of media will likely lose (or gain) consumer marketing spend going forward.

Very relevant for digital folks. “Media Planning” looks at the entire media industry and how it knits together in the planning, buying and measurement of campaigns. It incorporates both legacy and emerging digital media in the analysis. While some might mistake it for a “legacy” media book, it is nothing of the kind. Instead, it’s incredibly relevant for digital folks, particularly those who want to understand why TV dollars haven’t shifted to digital as fast as they would like. Reading it just might show some of you how to get that money faster.

It’s a fast and fun read. Ephron was a special writer. He had a unique ability to communicate complex concepts in simple and straightforward prose, and do it with charm. He didn’t waste words -- and, he didn’t here. At only 137 pages, “Media Planning” gets to the point fast, and his words are a delight.

It will make you smarter and better. Ephron was a very smart man with an extraordinary vision. He saw how things came together in ways most others didn’t. He was able to channel this vision in practical ways, and helped change a massive industry during his own lifetime. Just his work on recency alone has probably been responsible for the allocation of hundreds of billions of advertising dollars over the past 25 years.

Have a very happy new year! And reading “Media Planning” will make your 2014 even better.

15 comments about "Counting Counts: Six Reasons Everyone Must Read Erwin Ephron's Book 'Media Planning'".
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  1. Joshua Chasin from VideoAmp, January 2, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.

    100% agree.

  2. Carol Lewis from Riverton Media LLC, January 2, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

    GREAT article! The book's relevance to the digital world is really important.

  3. Walter Sabo from SABO media, January 2, 2014 at 2:03 p.m.

    It's not "legacy" media, it's proven media

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, January 2, 2014 at 2:09 p.m.

    I agree Walter. If digital media wants to become "legacy" media, and find a similar place at the foundation of spend, it too will have to prove its way there.

  5. Morten Pedersen from GLUE2020, January 2, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. Recency and engagement are more critical than ever, now that we have high media fragmentation. Unfortunately, these basics often forgotten as they are too "boring" to talk about - yet they're the basics to construct accountable advertising campaigns. Recency and engagement should have an impact on everything from budgeting, to strategy, to planning, to buying, to campaign management & measurement, and all the way through to sales impact.

  6. John Engler from LiveIntent, January 2, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.

    Thanks for the recommendation Dave. Buying now!

  7. Tom Cunniff from Tom Cunniff, January 2, 2014 at 5:04 p.m.

    Agree about the book's importance. I also agree with Morten that Recency and Engagement are critically important. What we once called fragmentation might more accurately be described as "atomization". A serious challenge for marketers as media continues to evolve will be how to achieve Recency and Engagement affordably. I predict the companies who help solve this will be very important in the future.

  8. Jorge Ortiz from Precision Market Insights from Verizon, January 3, 2014 at 4:24 p.m.

    Great recommendation Dave- looking forward to reading the book myself!

  9. Bob Henry from Huey Marketing, February 26, 2014 at midnight

    When I started my media planning career (having come over from the client-side as a brand manager to learn more about the single largest expenditure under my responsibility), I was looking for some rationality and evidence [*] -- not mindlessly perpetuated "rules of thumb" [**] -- for "why" ad agency media departments espoused the views they did.

    I was less-than-satisfied with their answers . . .

    I found what I was looking for in the pages of the trade publication "Inside Media": Professor John Philip Jones's "single-source data" research and Erwin Ephron's theory of continuity planning.

    A tip of the hat to Inside Media editor-in-chief Steve Ellwanger for bringing Ephron's pioneering work to the industry's wider attention.

    [* -- and -- ]

    [** See the first chapter of "The Advertising Mind" by Erik du Plessis for a history lesson.]

  10. Bob Henry from Huey Marketing, February 26, 2014 at 2 a.m.

    Link to the ARF tribute to Ephron:

  11. Steve Ellwanger from Marketing Daily, February 26, 2014 at 8:01 a.m.

    Thank you Bob. Things seemed so much simpler back then. The term engagement now seems so overused, but I seldom hear about recency. Kudos to MediaPost and Mr. Morgan for giving Irwin the attention and tribute he deserves.

  12. Bob Henry from Bayley Consults LLP, February 26, 2014 at 9:20 p.m.


    Before Inside Media "gave up the ghost," was there any online archiving of its articles and interviews for posterity?

    ~~ Bob

  13. Steve Ellwanger from Marketing Daily, February 27, 2014 at 8:55 a.m.

    I believe all archival content from IM became the property of MediaWeek back in 1997, when "online" consisted of AOL. It might exist somewhere on a floppy disc that no one can decipher now...

  14. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 27, 2014 at 11:02 a.m.

    I thoroughly agree about the importance of this book. Yet it has one major flaw: it was written in 2006 before we learned that the attitudes in agencies toward TV that developed from 1997 to 2008/9 were...well...absolutely wrong. So it is a brilliant book in defining the smart ways to look at media and planning. But watch out for his broad declamations about TV...they are dated.

  15. Bob Henry from Bayley Consults LLP, April 10, 2014 at 1:45 a.m.

    One more link "lionizing" Erwin Ephron:

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