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A multipurpose knife on a wooden table: the versatility of DMAs

Designated Market Areas: The Swiss Army Knife of Media Buys

April 6th, 2017   ||    by Charlene Weisler   ||    No Comments

Designated market areas were created in the mid-1950s specifically for use in national TV spot buying. Each designated market area (or DMA) covers an area where viewers have access to the same television options, according to The Balance. “Advertisers wanted to tailor their buys to the specific areas of the country where sales were concentrated . . . [DMAs] facilitated this marketplace,” explains media historian Tim Brook.

Are DMAs a concept that has come and gone? “No, but they need to come into the 21st century,” says Patti Gold, managing partner and chief media officer at The Shipyard. “DMAs work in a way that other definitions—like metro areas—don’t, because they include virtually everyone in the country. We need this kind of common denominator in order to cleanly value offline media and compare apples to apples between offline and online.”

Today, there are 210 designated market areas, according to Nielsen, representing 114,695,130 total TV homes in the U.S. For those TV advertisers who desire a more targeted approach in reaching their consumers, a careful curation of specific DMAs is one of the most efficient and successful methods. An advertiser might consider buying by designated market area for any of the following reasons.

Targeted Markets—and Personalities

Marketers may only want to deliver their messages to certain parts of the country (like regions) or certain types of markets (like urban or rural). Automated TV buying platforms create easy and efficient avenues for buying by designated market area. Brett Adamczyk, vice president of business development and strategy at Videa, discussed working to bring richer data to local television, enabling “agencies and advertisers to target audiences at the program level within local DMAs and local network broadcasts.” This, he believes, will “make television competitive with other forms of media, to increase yield for our inventory partners and deliver a level of attribution and ROI for advertisers’ dollars.”

Does your product or service have a particular brand message that may be more successful in certain parts of the country? Targeting by designated market area may help that message resonate. DMAs, according to Mitch Oscar, advanced TV strategist at USIM, have their own “personalities,” and therefore different relationships with retailers.

“Nationally, we buy on age and gender,” he explains, “but local DMA advertising offers an individual personality that can then be combined with age and gender. Also, local communities are attached to their local personalities on TV—they are homegrown and you cheer for the home team.” Attaching a message to a local star, in other words, adds power.

Keep Your Goals in Mind

When is it most efficient and opportune to launch a DMA-curated campaign? “It depends on what your goals are,” explains media consultant Hanna Gryncwajg. “When I think about specific reasons to focus on DMAs, two come to mind immediately: to heavy up on a national buy that may need the additional weight of impressions, and for a rollout campaign such as a film that is opening only in New York and LA before going national.”

“Marketing by DMA is changing,” says Ellen Oppenheim, vice president of global trade groups and marketing strategy at Prohaska Consulting. “More sophisticated data practices will increase marketers’ interest in those local media that can extend reach to more granular audiences at the DMA level.” And what does this mean for automated TV buying? “Programmatic, which looks at audiences dispassionately, may also find local media audiences, along with targets in national media, regardless of DMA,” Oppenheim explains.

Local TV measurement is in an expansionist phase thanks to the big data sets now available at the DMA level. In fact, there has never been a better reason to buy by DMA for campaigns requiring regionality (such as QSRs), gateway markets (think airlines), brand attributes (for politics), or even for campaigns simply intended to supplement a national buy.

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