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Changes Brewing for Cables Time Buyers, Too

New York -- Even as cable networks try to cope with their
own changes, buyers and planners at ad agencies may be revamping the ways that they buy
commercial time.

Ted Cutler, chairman of the Cabletelevision Advertising
Bureau and executive vice president at Time Warner Cable, told his CAB
advertising-conference audience earlier this month that technology is an
"undercurrent" running through everything from cable's digital tiers, to ad
insertion, to electronic data interchange.

Left unsaid was the fact that technology has also enabled
agencies to use new computer software to devise more effective ways to plan and buy media
schedules. The latest way, "optimization," is designed to optimize reach.

The CAB's panelists touched on the pros and cons of
optimization -- an analysis tool for building the optimum, or best, schedules that deliver
the desired-reach goal within designated target audiences.

Among the concerns -- as raised by moderator Jim Spaeth,
Advertising Research Foundation president, and others -- were: Will daypart-based buying
become obsolete? What will happen to the upfronts? Will frequency give way to
"recency" (or short-term reach), and will cost per thousand (CPM) homes give way
to cost per reach (CPR) points?

Indeed, will agencies and media go along with optimization
or try forcing it into today's traditional media-buying models?

Definitive answers may be years away, but one thing seemed
certain. As Jayne Spittler, senior vice president at Leo Burnett Co.'s Starcom Media
Services arm, observed, media researchers appear assured of continued employment.

Offering a seller's perspective, Barry Fischer,
executive vice president of research and marketing at Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc., felt
that optimizers should show that cable performs well against broadcast, but he stressed
that they offer "directional" guidance, and that they are "not strategies,
or replacements for negotiators" or media planners' judgment.

Optimization, although the subject of "too much hype
... can take us beyond delivering gross rating points to prespecified reach goals"
and cost-effective schedules, Spittler said. Still, getting the necessary
respondent-level, or raw, ratings data from Nielsen Media Research on time and cheaply
remains a problem, she noted.

"Traditional dayparts will become far less
important" in TV buys, Erwin Ephron, partner in Ephron, Papazian & Ephron,
forecast. "Optimizers do not budget by daypart," but instead, they regard all of
TV -- including cable -- as interchangeable.

In any case, Ephron predicted, "you'll see very
little optimization in the next upfront."

As for those few agencies that are using optimizers for
that upfront, Rich Hamilton, Zenith Media Services' CEO, felt that their schedules
"will be re-expressed into traditional dayparts." "Posting" (post-buy
analysis) will continue on a CPM basis, he added.