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Choosing Media

After choosing the message, the advertiser’s next task is to select media to carry it. The steps here are deciding on desired reach, frequency, and impact; choosing among major media types;


Off-Air Ad Battles


In a highly competitive environment, not everyone sees eye to eye on what is suitable advertising. For example, Splenda’s tagline for its artificial sweetener was “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar,” with “but it’s not sugar” in small writing almost as an afterthought. McNeil Nutritionals, Splenda’s manufacturer, does begin production of Splenda with pure cane sugar but burns it off in the manufacturing process.

Merisant, maker of Equal, claimed that Splenda’s advertising confused consumers who were likely to conclude that a product “made from sugar” is healthier than one made from aspartame, Equal’s main ingredient. A document from McNeil’s own files and used in court says consumers’ perception of Splenda as “not an artificial sweetener” was one of the biggest triumphs of the company’s marketing campaign.

Splenda became the leader in the sugar-substitute category with 60 percent of the market, leaving roughly 14 percent each to Equal and Sweet’N Low. Although McNeil eventually settled the lawsuit and paid Merisant an undisclosed but “substantial” award (and changed its advertising), it may have been too late to change consumers’ perception of Splenda as something sugary and sugar-free.

Sources: Sarah Hills, “McNeil and Sugar Association Settle Splenda Dispute,” Food,, November 18, 2008; James P Miller, “Bitter Sweets Fight Ended,”

Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2007; Avery Johnson, “How Sweet It Isn’t:

Maker of Equal Says Ads for J&J’s Splenda Misled,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2007. For a discussion of the possible role of corrective advertising, see Peter Darke, Laurence Ashworth, and Robin J. B. Ritchie, “Damage from Corrective Advertising: Causes and Cures,” Journal of Marketing 72 (November 2008), pp. 81-97.

selecting specific media vehicles; and setting media timing and geographical allocation. Then the marketer evaluates the results of these decisions.

Reach, Frequency, and Impact Media selection is finding the most cost-effective media to deliver the desired number and type of exposures to the target audience. The advertiser seeks a specified advertising objective and response from the target audience—for example, a target level of product trial. This level depends on, among other things, level of brand awareness. The effect of exposures on audience awareness depends on the exposures’ reach, frequency, and impact:

  • • Reach (R). The number of different persons or households exposed to a particular media schedule at least once during a specified time period
  • • Frequency (F). The number of times within the specified time period that an average person or household is exposed to the message
  • • Impact (I). The qualitative value of an exposure through a given medium (thus, a food ad will have a higher impact in Bon Appetit than in Fortune magazine)

Reach is most important when launching new products, flanker brands, extensions of well- known brands, and infrequently purchased brands or when going after an undefined target market. Frequency is most important where there are strong competitors, a complex story to tell, high consumer resistance, or a frequent-purchase cycle.9 More repetition is needed when a brand, product category, or message is associated with a higher forgetting rate. Advertisers should not coast on a tired ad but insist on fresh executions by their ad agency.10

Choosing Among Major Media Types The media planner must know the capacity of the major advertising media types to deliver reach, frequency, and impact. The major advertising media along with their costs, advantages, and limitations are profiled in Table 15.1. Media planners make their choices by considering factors such as target audience media habits, product characteristics, message requirements, and cost.

Place Advertising Options Place advertising, or out-of-home advertising, is a broad category including many creative and unexpected forms to grab consumers’ attention where they work, play, and shop. Popular options include billboards (including 3D images), public spaces (such as on movie screens and on fitness equipment), product placement (in movies and television), and point of purchase (P-O-P), reaching consumers where buying decisions are made through ads on shopping carts, in-store demonstrations, and live sampling.11 Mobile marketing reaches consumers via smart phones when in store. P-O-P radio provides FM-style programming and commercial messages to thousands of food stores and drugstores nationwide. Video screens in some stores, such as Walmart, play TV-type ads.12

Evaluating Alternate Media Nontraditional media can often reach a very precise and captive audience in a cost-effective manner, with ads anywhere consumers have a few seconds to notice them. The message must be simple and direct. Unique ad placements designed to break through clutter may also be perceived as invasive and obtrusive, however, especially in traditionally ad-free spaces such as in schools, on police cruisers, and in doctors’ waiting rooms.

Selecting Specific Media Vehicles Media planners select the most cost-effective vehicles within each chosen media type, relying on measurement services that estimate audience size, composition, and media cost and then calculate the cost per thousand persons reached. They also consider audience quality, audience-attention probability, the medium’s editorial quality, and extra services. Media planners are using more sophisticated measures of effectiveness and employing them in mathematical models to arrive at the best media mix.13

TABLE 15.1 Profiles of Major Media Types





Flexibility; timeliness; good local market coverage; broad acceptance; high believability

Short life; poor reproduction quality; small “pass-along” audience


Combines sight, sound, and motion; appealing to the senses; high attention; high reach

High absolute cost; high clutter; fleeting exposure; less audience selectivity

Direct mail

Audience selectivity; flexibility; no ad competition within the same medium; personalization

Relatively high cost; “junk mail” image


Mass use; high geographic and demographic selectivity; low cost

Audio presentation only; lower attention than television; nonstandardized rate structures; fleeting exposure


High geographic and demographic selectivity; credibility and prestige; high-quality reproduction; long life; good pass-along readership

Long ad purchase lead time; some waste in circulation


Flexibility; high repeat exposure; low cost; low competition

Limited audience selectivity; creative limitations

Yellow Pages

Excellent local coverage; high believability; wide reach; low cost

High competition; long ad purchase lead time; creative limitations


Very high selectivity; full control; interactive opportunities; relative low costs

Costs could run away


Flexibility; full control; can dramatize messages

Overproduction could lead to runaway costs


Many users; opportunity to give a personal touch

Relative high cost; increasing consumer resistance

Selecting Media Timing and Allocation In choosing media, the advertiser makes both a macroscheduling and a microscheduling decision. The macroscheduling decision relates to seasons and the business cycle. Suppose 70 percent of a product’s sales occur between June and September. The firm can vary its advertising expenditures to follow the seasonal pattern, to oppose the seasonal pattern, or to be constant throughout the year. The microscheduling decision calls for allocating advertising expenditures within a short period to obtain maximum impact. Advertising can be concentrated (“burst” advertising), dispersed continuously throughout the month, or dispersed intermittently.

In launching a new product, the advertiser must choose among continuity, concentration, flighting, and pulsing. Continuity means exposures appear evenly throughout a given period. Generally, advertisers use continuous advertising in expanding markets, with frequently purchased items, and in tightly defined buyer categories. Concentration calls for spending all the advertising dollars in a single period, which makes sense for products with one selling season or related holiday. Flighting calls for advertising during a period, followed by a period with no advertising, followed by a second period of advertising activity. It is useful when funding is limited, the purchase cycle is relatively infrequent, or items are seasonal. Pulsing is continuous advertising at low levels, reinforced periodically by waves of heavier activity, to help the audience learn the message more thoroughly at a lower cost to the firm.14

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