The DMA To DMZ: An Impression

If memory serves me well, back in the mid-1950s two opposing media research forces were vying for hegemony over the naming and defining rights for a “media market,” a static, physical piece of property that was defined by many characteristics, such as number of people, homes, education, families, dwelling, income, boundaries, occupation, that would stretch continuously in many shapes and sizes across the United States. The two top contenders were ADI (area of dominant influence) and DMA (designated marketing area).

My understanding is that somehow Nielsen Media Research won the coin toss, and DMA it has been ever since. Seemed all right. Rarely have I heard media people challenge one another on whether this or that DMA is sized right or given unfair advantage in the weights of justice. Wasn’t a big issue while I was a national television buyer whose primary focus was the impending glacial slide of the broadcast network’s ratings, higher CPMs, and the growing preponderance of niche defined cable networks that had my clients questioning efficiency, and targeting.



Decades later, cable networks proliferate; cable operators, satellite platforms, and telcos have morphed into multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) and engulf their rivals; Internet connectivity spreads with accelerating speeds; technologically smart devices have become meaningful receptacles for retrieving TV programming on demand and wearable information; “apped” social networks are challenging traditional purveyors of video content for consumer digestion and funding; and an array of data-ists microscopically provide a set of tools for exploitation to assist in the guidance of targeted messages to consumers deemed “receptive.”

So isn’t it time for us as an industry to redefine, expand, or inject our physical definitions with more fluidity? Should we maintain our market definition, the designated market area, simply by physical geography for advertisers to map out their media spend and targeted points — or should we begin to define a media market based upon distribution of media services, social network connectivity and activity, and control of content, editorial, and commerce?

At a conference last week, Rick Ducey of BIA/Kelsey fame and I discussed this issue, which his company refers to as local on-demand economy (LODE). We both agree on the importance of the traditional communal foundations of triple-play packages of video, broadband, and telephony that connect 95 million of the 114+ million physically located TV households in the U.S. But he points out, what about the fluidity of the consumer as community traveler en route from his/her domicile to enjoy the work and recreational activities in an on-demand environ, via Uber or Airbnb, Amazon drone delivery, Foursquare mayoring, or for that matter, via any application utilized, whether for curiosity or commerce, in the course of a daily sojourn? How are we integrating that data or behavior into our media mix modeling to help advertisers better target their potential customer or maintain the loyalty of an existing relationship?

One impression at a time.

My recommendation: morph the DMA to the DMZ (designated marketing zone). As each media conglomerate carves out a physical and ethereal zone, and offers many services (video, broadband, telephony, social, commerce, exploration, lifestyle…), they will hopefully build up a trusting relationship with the consumer through upselling products and cherished customer service. If this goods and services relationship evolves, then marketers will have the opportunity to participate in a unique relationship by leveraging the trust the consumers have with their media and social providers to resonate with the sale of a marketer’s product.

In closing, I was reminded of the refrain to the early ’70s classic Allman Brothers Band song, “One Way Out”:

Ain’t but one way out, baby,
Lord I just can’t go out the door.
Ain’t but one way out, baby,
Lord I just can’t go out the door.
Cause there’s man down there,
Might be your man I don’t know.

Well today we know who that man is — and how to reach him with our targeted messages.

Welcome to the DMZ.

1 comment about "The DMA To DMZ: An Impression".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 10, 2015 at 1:08 p.m.

    Mitch, the battle between Arbitron and Nielsen for local market TV ratings supremacy had little to do with ADI versus DMA definitions. Arbitron, was once way ahead but eventually lost because it could never compete with Nielsen in the national ratings game.

    As I recall, Arbitron came up with the ADI definition and Nielsen quickly followed with its DMAs--both doing just about the same thing---namely assigning counties where signals from more than one market overlapped to that market with the highest share of set usage for its stations, collectively. Otherwise you were going to have lots of counties that fell into the coverage areas of two, three or even four markets, which would result in chaos.

    As for the suggested revision of the DMA definition,it sounds fine, in theory, assuming that you have the data and you assign counties or other geographical slices to one market or another, but not to more than one market. I suspect that after a lot of experimentation the probable result will be something very close to the existing DMAs for many markets----but, if not, whatever shape these configurations take, they have to be relatable to the local media availabilities, including traditional as well as digitall media.

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