Advertising media selection

Advertising media selection is the process of choosing the most cost-effective media to achieve the necessary coverage, and number of exposures, among the target audience.


This is typically measured on two dimensions:

CovTo maximize overall awareness, the maximum number of the target audience should be reached by the advertising. There is a limit, however, for the last few per cent of the general population are always difficult (and accordingly very expensive) to reach; since they do not see the main media used by advertisers. Indeed the cost of 'cumulative' coverage typically follows an exponential pattern. Reaching 90 per cent can cost double what it costs to reach 70 per cent, and reaching 95 per cent can double the cost yet again. The coverage decision is, in practice, a balance between the desired coverage and the cost of achieving it. A large budget will achieve high coverage, whereas a smaller budget will limit the ambitions of the advertiser.

  1. Frequency - Even with high coverage, however, it is not sufficient for a member of the target audience to have just one `Opportunity To See' (OTS) the advertisement. In terms of the traditional media it is generally reckoned that around five OTS are needed before any reasonable degree of impact is achieved; and significantly more may be needed to build attitudes which lead to brand switching. To achieve five OTS, even across a coverage of only 70 per cent of the overall audience, may require 20 or 30 peak-time transmissions of a commercial, or a significant number of insertions of press advertisements in the national media. A related point is that, as the above figures suggest, most consumers simply do not see the commercials that frequently (whereas the brand manager, say, looks out for every one; and has already seen them many times before their first transmission - and so becomes justifiably bored). The message is that the life of advertising campaigns can often be extended far beyond the relatively short life which is usually expected of them. Indeed, as indicated above, the research shows that advertisements 'need' to obtain a significant number of exposures to consumers before they even register. As David Ogilvy long ago recommended, "If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops selling. Scores of good advertisements have been discarded before they lost their potency."


The more sophisticated media planners will also look at the 'spread' of frequencies. Ideally 'all' of the audience should receive the average number of OTS (since those who receive less are insufficiently motivated, and the extra advertising is wasted on those who receive more). Needless to say, it is impossible to achieve this ideal. As with coverage, the pattern will be weighted towards a smaller number, of heavy viewers for example who will receive significantly more OTS, and away from the difficult last few per cent. However, the good media buyer will manage the resulting spread of frequencies so that it is weighted close to the average, with as few as possible of the audience away from the average.

Frequency is also complicated by the fact that this is a function of time. A pattern of 12 OTS across a year may be scarcely noticed, whereas 12 OTS in a week will be very evident to most viewers. This is often the rationale for advertising in `bursts' or `waves' (sometimes described as `pulsing'); with expenditure concentrated into a number of intense periods of advertising - which are noticed - but with these bursts spread throughout the year, so that brands do not remain uncovered for long periods.

Media Buyers

In the end, it is the media buyers who deliver the goods; by negotiating special deals with the media owners, and buying the best parcels of `slots' to achieve the best cost (normally measured in terms of the cost per thousand viewers, or per thousand household `impressions', or per thousand impressions on the target audience. The "best cost" can also be measured by the cost per lead, in the case of direct response marketing). The growth of the very large, international, agencies has been partly justified by their increased buying power over the media owners.

Types of Media and Their Characteristics

In terms of overall advertising expenditures, media advertising is still dominated by Press and television, which are of comparable size (by value of `sales'). Posters and radio follow some way behind, with cinema representing a very specialist medium.


In the United Kingdom, spending is dominated by the national and regional newspapers, the latter taking almost all the classified advertising revenue. The magazines and trade or technical journal markets are about the same size as each other, but are less than half that of the newspaper sectors.

  • National newspapers - These are still traditionally categorized, from the media buyer's viewpoint, on the basis of class; even though this is of declining importance to many advertisers. `Quality' newspapers for example, tend to have a readership profile of in excess of 80 per cent of ABC1 readers, though it is more difficult to segment readerships by age categories. They are obviously best matched to national advertisers who are happy with black and white advertisements, although colour is now available - and high-quality colour is available in some supplements. National newspapers in general, and the quality Press in particular, are supposed to carry more `weight' with their readers (since they are deliberately read, not treated just as `background'); so that an advertisement placed in one is taken more seriously than a comparable one in a regional newspaper, although it may be more transitory (since it is not kept for reference as some local weeklies may be).
  • Regional newspapers - These may be dailies, which look and perform much like the nationals, or weeklies, which are rather more specialized, although they dominate the market for classified advertising. Indeed, there is usually much more advertising competing for the reader's attention, and the weekly newspaper now largely the province of the `free-sheet' - which is typically delivered free to all homes in a given area - obtaining all their revenue from the very high proportion of advertising which they carry, and accordingly having the least `weight' of all.

Advertisements in newspapers, referred to as `insertions', are usually specified as so many centimetres across so many columns. In these days of metrication, a multiple of 3 cm is used as the standard measure, instead of the previously traditional inch. Thus, a `30 cm double' is an advertisement that is 30 cm long, down the page, and across two columns of type; where the width of columns varies from paper to paper - an important consideration when you are having the printing `blocks' made. The position is also often specified; so that, for example, an advertiser of a unit trust will probably pay extra to make certain that the insertion is next to the financial pages.

  • Magazines - These offer a more selective audience (which is more `involved', with the editorial content at least). Magazines are traditionally categorized into general interest, special interest and trade or technical. The advertiser will, therefore, be able to select those which match the specific profile demanded by the advertising strategy. The weight, or `authority', of magazines is correspondingly high, and they may be kept for a considerable time for use as reference - and passed to other readers (so that `readership' figures may be much higher than `circulation' figures). They can offer excellent colour printing; but, again, the clutter of many competing advertisements may reduce the impact of the advertiser's message.
  • Trade and technical - In the trade and professional fields there are now a significant number of `controlled circulation' magazines. These are like the `free Press', in that they are delivered free to the recipients; but, at least in theory, those recipients should have been carefully screened to ensure that they are of value to the advertisers - and the circulation can, if properly controlled, represent a wide cross-section of the buyers, and influencers, in the advertiser's target audience. The rates for positioning are usually more varied than for newspapers, with premiums being paid for facing editorial matter and, of course, for colour.


This is normally the most expensive medium, and as such is generally only open to the major advertisers, although some regional contractors offer more affordable packages to their local advertisers. It offers by far the widest coverage, particularly at peak hours (roughly 7.00--10.30 p.m.) and especially of family audiences. Offering sight, sound, movement and colour, it has the greatest impact, especially for those products or services where a `demonstration' is essential; since it combines the virtues of both the `story-teller' and the `demonstrator'. However, to be effective these messages must be kept simple - and have the impact to overcome the surrounding distractions of family life; especially the attraction of the remote control - which has caused more problems for advertisers than any other development.

The medium is relatively unselective in its audiences, and offers relatively poor coverage of the upper class and younger age groups, but as it is regionally based it can be used for regional trials or promotions (including test markets).

The price structures can be horrendously complicated, with the `rate card' (the price list) offering different prices for different times throughout the day; and this is further complicated by a wide range of special promotional packages, and individual negotiations. It is truly the province of the specialist media buyer.

  • Satellite television - This has long been supposed to be the medium of the future, just as cable television was similarly supposed to represent the future a decade or so ago. This promise has been largely fulfilled in the USA, and is now an important feature in other countries, though terrestrial 'freeview' broadcasting is now - in turn - posing its own challenge.


This is something of a specialist medium, which is generally used n support of campaigns using other media. On the other hand, some advertisers, particularly those in brewing and tobacco, have successfully made significant use of the medium; although, to achieve this, they have developed the requisite expertise to make efficient use of its peculiarities.

The main roadside posters are described in terms of how the poster is physically posted on to them (pasted on, one sheet at a time, by a bill-poster); as 16 sheet (the main, 10' x 6'8" size in vertical format) and 48 sheet (10' x 20', in horizontal/landscape format). Those smaller ones, seen in pedestrian areas, are typically four sheet (5' x 3'4"). The best sites are typically reserved for the long-term clients, mainly the brewers and tobacco companies (hence one reason for their success in use of the medium), so that new users may find this a relatively unattractive medium.

This industry is also known as Out of Home Media. However, this category is not limited to posters and billboards. It may involve the use of media space in airports, malls, convenience stores, etc., and it could even tie into guerilla marketing, a nontraditional approach to advertising that may involve grassroots tactics (e.g. posting branded stickers or static clings to buildings, restrooms, and other surfaces in metropolitan areas).

In Malaysia there are numerous sizes from 10'x40', 20'x60', 20'x80' to 40'x60'. In both formats..Landscape and portrait. Current Outdoor Media Owners include Seni Jaya and Big Tree.


The use of radio has increased greatly in recent years, with the granting of many more licences. It typically generates specific audiences at different times of the day; for example, adults at breakfast, housewives thereafter, and motorists during rush hours. It can be a very cost-effective way of reaching these audiences (especially as production costs can also be much cheaper), although the types of message conveyed will be limited by the lack of any visual elements, and may have a `lightweight' image.


Although the numbers in the national audience are now small, this may be the most effective medium for extending coverage to the younger age groups, since the core audience is aged 15-24.

Internet/Web Advertising

This is a rapidly growing force in marketing. It is very varied in form, but much of it still follows the example of press advertising, but the most effective usage - now adopted by the 'search engines' - is interactive. Indeed, in its own field, Wikipedia demonstrates how effective such an approach can become.

Mobile Advertising

Although the personal mobile phone is becoming very attractive as an important advertising media to the network operators, it is relatively unproven and therefore still remains in the media buyers' sidelines.

Audience Research

Finding out exactly the audience for a magazine or newspaper, or who watches at a given time on television, is a specialized form of market research, which is often conducted on behalf of the media owners.

The Press figures are slightly complicated by the fact that there are two measures; that of 'readership', which represents the total number of readers of a publication, no matter where they read it, and 'circulation', the number of copies actually sold, which is mostly independently validated.


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