Where to advertise: Media planning resources on the web

Kate Pittsley

When an advertising or communications student creates a media plan for an advertising campaign, the student must make multiple decisions, including:

  • How should I allocate my budget across various media types to most effectively reach target markets?
  • Which specific media (e.g., magazine titles, television programs, websites) might be used to reach target markets?

Students face a daunting challenge, as most university libraries have few subscription services for researching advertising media vehicles. Many services used by advertising firms are not available to academics and not all college libraries subscribe to those that are available.1 Historically, many college libraries found an advertising agency willing to donate old paper copies of print reference books from Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS). Now that most ad agencies use electronic subscriptions, hand-me-down print copies may be hard to find.

The following websites can be used to compare media channels (e.g., television versus magazine versus Internet) and to choose specific media vehicles, such as specific magazine titles, cable channels, local radio stations, or websites.

The recommended media sites are often complex, mirroring a rapidly changing media landscape that blurs lines between media types (for example, print newspapers with websites). Also, many details planners must consider—such as the timing, frequency, and placement of ads—vary greatly for different types of media: prime time versus daytime television, ad placement at front or middle of magazine, size of newspaper ads, etc. The availability of price information also varies by media type: print media may have published rate cards, but broadcast advertising is often based on negotiated deals that involve promises of a certain level of audience exposure over a specified time period. Internet advertising is especially complex as it involves many new forms of advertising, such as search engine keyword advertising, online video ads, social media, and individually targeted ads based on online behaviors. Technology makes media planning a moving target not only because of new ways to advertise, but also due to the increasing use of programmatic buying to automate ad purchases.

Advertising and marketing vocabulary

The advertising world abounds with specialized vocabulary and acronyms. Students learn the lingo in classes; however, a few free sites that define marketing terms come in handy.

  • American Marketing Association (AMA) Dictionary The entire AMA Dictionary is available on the AMA website. It contains more than 4,000 terms and is regularly updated. Access: http://www.marketingpower.com/_layouts/Dictionary.aspx.
  • IAB Interactive Advertising Wiki The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) hosts a collaborative glossary to keep up with terms for new forms of advertising and new ways to automate ad purchasing. Access: http://www.iab.net/wiki/.

Trade associations that promote media categories

Since media categories (e.g., magazines, newspapers, cable television, local television) are competing with each other for advertiser dollars, their trade association sites offer much information on the advantages of advertising in their medium. These “pitches” can be quite useful for deciding how to allocate an advertising budget across media categories. Because these associations are pitching to a sophisticated audience, the sites often attempt to persuade using statistics from independent third-parties such as Nielsen—nonetheless students will want to take bias into account. In addition, some sites offer rich databases with details on specific media vehicles. As with many association sites, often some parts of the sites are member only.

  • American Business Media (ABM) Students planning a business-to-business (B2B) campaign might use the News/Reports section of the ABM site to find case studies of various ways to reach B2B customers. Access: http://www.abmassociation.com.
  • Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) CAB’s database of cable network profiles is a gold mine for media planners. Profiles include estimates of network viewers, base demographics, and programming genres. Look closely to find PDF files with complete profiles that offer more details on audience demographics and lifestyles, as well as information on specific televsion programs. Profiles can be browsed by multicultural group, programming genre, demographic segment (age and gender breakouts), sports category, or family/gender type. A cable systems directory can be searched by state or DMA (designated marketing areas). Find more tools in the Cable Planner section. Access: http://www.thecab.tv.
  • Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) IAB is a trade association for many types of digital media, including online, wireless, social media, interactive television, and gaming. The IAB site has educational materials on interactive marketing, including case studies, research summaries, industry statistics, and industry guidelines. Access: http://www.iab.net.
  • Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association) Directory services have expanded to print, digital, social media, and mobile formats. The resources section of the site offers a vendor directory, free research reports on usage of specific yellow pages headings (print and online), and archived webinars. Access: http://www.localsearchassociation.org.
  • Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) The MMA site offers numerous free resources related to wireless advertising, including best practices, case studies, an industry directory, and educational materials. Access: http://www.mmaglobal.com.
  • MPA—The Association of Magazine Media MPA’s Magazine Media Factbook provides overall statistics on magazine readership and engagement, including figures for consumers of specific product types. Elsewhere on the site, find magazine advertising case studies by industry or advertiser. Access: http://www.magazine.org/insights-resources.
  • National Association of Broadcasters Online Resource Guide The online member directory of the National Association of Broadcasters can be used to identify radio and television stations by state, city, or designated market area. Unfortunately, only members are listed and stations are not linked, so you must google station names for details. Access: http://www.nabonlineresourceguide.org.
  • Newspaper Association of America (NAA) The trends and numbers section of the NAA site reports statistics on readership, newspaper web audience, and average issue demographic composition—often based on independent numbers from Scarborough Research. Access: http://www.naa.org.

  • Online Publishers Association (OPA) OPA represents established news, information, and entertainment web publishers, such as About.com and WebMD, and media companies like PBS, Disney, or The New York Times. OPA research reports include studies of media effectiveness that often rely on third-party analysis. Access: http://www.online-publishers.org.
  • Outdoor Advertising Association of America This content-rich site offers effectiveness studies, statistics, creative examples, and educational materials on numerous types of out-of-home advertising, such as billboards, transit advertising (subways, buses, airports), place-based advertising (malls, stadiums, cinemas), and more. Access: http://www.oaaa.org.
  • Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) RAB offers detailed audience statistics, consumer studies, and educational material on radio advertising. The large database of MP3 radio ads in the creative section can be searched by industry and product type. Access: http://www.rab.com.

  • Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) Syndicated television sells program packages to local television stations, including re-runs, movies, daytime series, and other original programming. In addition to educational materials and reports on the effectiveness of syndicated television advertising, the SNTA site offers a database of syndicated programming that can be sorted multiple ways, including by genre or target audience. Access: http://www.snta.com.

  • Television Advertising Bureau (TVB) TVB promotes the advantages of advertising on local stations and offers more useful information for media planners than can be detailed here. Designated Marketing Area profiles offer statistics on television households and links to local stations. Elsewhere on the site you’ll find Nielsen ratings and rankings of various types of programming, as well as numerous relevant television advertising statistics and educational materials. The cost trend statistics can be used for estimating media budgets. Access: http://www.tvb.org.

Sources of independent audience measurement/analysis

Advertising media planners need reliable numbers on how many people are reached by media vehicles, as well as demographic detail on audiences, since the ultimate goal is to maximize exposure to specific target groups that are most likely to purchase the product or service. These audience measurement needs are met by independent organizations that provide audited metrics or by marketing research firms that collect syndicated data. Syndicated data services may combine data on media exposure (e.g., web analytics, television set top data) with anonymized data on customer demographics and purchasing behavior (from frequent shopper cards, car registrations, and other sources).

Usually students won’t be able to access the full data provided to clients, but they can often glean free information. On some sites, the student must register to access free content. For syndicated data services, often you’ll find additional information from that firm quoted in the trade press or on client websites (like many trade association sites above).

  • Alexa Alexa is great for finding metrics on specific web domains. Enter a web address to find traffic rankings, engagement metrics, audience demographics, search engine traffic, etc. There is also a ranked list of the top 500 sites globally, by country, or by category (including shopping subcategories). You can also do keyword searches for sites. A subscription offers more details, but there is much useful free information. Access: http://www.alexa.com.

  • Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), formerly Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) This organization—well-known for providing audited circulation figures for newspapers, consumer magazines, and other print periodicals—now also measures digital media audiences. Without a membership,2 the site offers some sample reports, but more AAM/ABC data can be found elsewhere (see MRI+ below). Access: http://www.auditedmedia.com/free-reports.aspx.
  • ComScore ComScore provides audience ratings and measurement services for e-commerce. Search the comScore Datamine for statistical charts on media usage or look for information in press releases. Access: http://www.comscore.com.
  • Experian Marketing Services (Simmons) Experian Marketing is a syndicated data service that offers detailed insights on consumer media behavior. You’ll often see Experian/Simmons quoted in the press. You can find some free trend reports on the Experian site. Access: http://www.experian.com/marketing-services/.
  • GfK MRI GfK MRI gains insight into consumer media behavior via their extensive Survey of the American Consumer. You won’t find extensive reports for free; but a keyword search of the site might find a key fact in a press release or sample table. Access: http://www.gfkmri.com.
  • Ipsos A free registration gains access to a rich Knowledge & Ideas library of articles and online videos on topics related to advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, and media strategy. Ipsos content is especially strong for topics related to digital marketing and to the affluent market. Access: http://ipsos-na.com/knowledge-ideas/.

  • MRI+ (Mediamark Research) MRI+ is likely the most useful free site for students planning ads in magazine media. This database of specific magazine titles provides audited circulation figures, magazine descriptions, audience demographics, and more. Interactive features allow students to specify criteria (such as ad size and dates) to compute ad costs. Consumer and trade magazines can be searched by title, subject area, circulation or audience, etc. Students must register for free access to MRI+. Access: http://www.mriplus.com.

  • Nielsen (now also owns Arbitron) Famous for collecting data on television audiences, Nielsen actually provides clients with a wide range of data on consumer media and marketing behavior. At the site, you’ll find top ten lists for television, books, movies, music, video games, and websites. You can also find key statistics in newswires and reports on the site. Access: http://www.nielsen.com.

Other useful media sites

  • Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) NAI members agree to a code of conduct for online interest-based advertising—a form of industry self-regulation that deals with issues of consumer privacy and data collection. Students may benefit from the site’s explanations of how online advertising works. Consumers can use an online form at the site to opt-out of interest-based advertising from member firms. Access: http://www.networkadvertising.org.
  • New Marketing Institute—Media-Math This site provides educational materials related to online advertising and the use of technology platforms to automate ad purchases. Although there is a fee for courses, the site offers free videos and articles. Access: https://www.newmarketinginstitute.com.

Print in the Mix—Rochester Institute of Technology

This clearinghouse provides summaries of media research and has expanded to include digital media. Access: http://printinthemix.com.

State of the News Media—Pew Research Center

This annual report covers trends in news media, including digital news media, newspapers, news magazines, television news, and radio news, as well as ethnic and alternative media. It provides audience statistics/rankings for top news outlets. Access: http://stateofthemedia.org.

Academic subscriptions are available from SRDS ( [Full Text] ) and Experian/Simmons ( [Full Text] ).
College libraries can join the Alliance for Audited Media as an academic associate ( [Full Text] ).
Copyright © 2014 Kate Pittsley

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