The DMA To DMZ: An Impression

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 13, 2015
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 recent conference, 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.

This post originally ran in an earlier edition of Audience Buying Insider.

1 comment about "The DMA To DMZ: An Impression".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 13, 2015 at 4:24 p.m.

    Mitch, the situation you referred to long ago, involved Arbitron and, later, Nielsen on  the local market TV rating front. Since there was overlap between the signals of stations from one market to another, it was decided to define markkets by crediting them only with those counties where their home stations, collectively had the largest share of audience. This way, there was no duplication and the areas could serve as the basis for media planning as well as buying. Arbitron called this the ADI---Area of Dominant Influence. Later, Nielsen copied Arbitron, dubbing its version, which amounted to exactly the same thing, the DMA. Neither of these had anything to do with Nielsen's eventual supremacy in the local rating field and Arbitron's bruised and battered withdrawal from the battlefield.

    To answer you question about redefining markets based on connectivity, new product delivery methods, etc. while that's all well and good, you would eventually have to select an area for each market which fits all of the elements you add to the mix...not just where TV stations get their largest audiences. In all likeliehood, this would greatly decrease the size of most media markets, in the process creating many sub markets where TV and radio signal overlap and it becomes very difficult to plan media on a cohesive basis. Of course, if traditional TV and radio were to disappear, this might not be an issue, however we are a long, long way from that being the case, particularly where branding advertisers are concerned.

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