There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.


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Journey author Robert Davis is the owner and creative director of Atlanta agency, Davis Advertising, Inc.


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Journey from Concept to Creation

There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.
  • Intellectual Property

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    There is an old Chinese proverb that says, "He who knows not, but knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him." Truer words were never spoken. Comtemporary wisdom says, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse for violation of the law." In consideration of these truths, I will try to make the basic tenets of copyright, trademark and patent law as simple as possible so that even a fool can understand them. I will also attempt to clear up common misconceptions and address the exemptions to the law (such as this commentary) that fall under "fair use."
         International society has reached a consensus that creative artists should have moral and economic control over how and where their work is used. Copyright law protects the rights of these artists which include filmmakers, composers, authors, fine artists, commercial artists, graphic designers, web/interactive designers, photographers and others. I was told in art college that if a juror holds the original in one hand and a copy in another and believes with 60% or better certainty that the copy is derived from the original, then there is a legal basis for copyright infringement. If the author can prove in court that he or she owns the work and can prove that the defendant has copied it, the plaintiff will recover attorney's fees, actual damages, statutory damages, or any profits that were a result of the infringement. The judgment can be affected by the extent of the infringement and how much proof there is that the violation was intentional. [For more detailed information you may want to consult with an intellectual property attorney.]
         The author owns the rights to his/her work whether he or she has it officially registered or not. The benefit of officially registering intellectual property with the copyright office (requiring a $30 fee), is simply that it makes it easier to prove authorship in court. By the way, another pervasive myth is that the artist can mail the work to himself and use the postmarked, unopened envelope as proof. NONSENSE. Think about it. An artist can also mail an UNSEALED envelope to him or herself.
         It is important to note that only expressions of ideas are protected. The ideas themselves are not copyrightable [neither are drum charts or chord progressions -- only melodies]. An idea has to be produced in tangible form before it can fall under copyright protection. Also, commonly used and/or ubiquitous imagery is not protected. For example, if I take photo of the sky with billowing clouds, I own the photo itself, but not the license to photograph clouds. So if someone else takes a photo of clouds that looks like mine, I may not have a valid case against them.

         As I write this, there is a story circulating on social media regarding a legal matter between rock musician, Rod Stewart and Bonnie Shiffman, a celebrity photographer. Shiffman was originally hired by Stewart to photograph the back of Stewart's head for his “Storyteller” album which was released in 1989. 

    ORIGINAL PHOTO (Credit -- Bonnie Shiffman)


    Shiffman's lawsuit claims that a current photo being used by Rod Stewart is "a replicate image, an unmistakable copy" of the original. According to numerous sources, Stewart's agent, Arnold Stiefel, offered Shiffman $1,500 for the reuse of the photo. Shiffman refused. So, Stiefel created a very similar photo without obtaining permission from Shiffman.


    I believe that Shiffmann has a rock-solid case for the “not less than $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.” It may be settled out of court. Nevertheless, the thing that interests me most is how many users have responded on social media in support of Rod Stewart. I have PARAPHRASED some of the comments I have read from supporters of Stewart as follows:


  • It is only the back of his head and it isn't worth 2.5 million for a photograph. This should be laughed out of court.
  • Stewart has worked hard all of his life to achieve his success so he is justified.
  • The photographer is preying on Stewart's success.
  • Stewart's head, hair, money and photo belong to him and he should get to decide how his photo is used and when.
  • It is ridiculous to claim that Stewart cannot use the copied photo simply because it is the same format as the original.
  • I love Rod Stewart and his music so much and he absolutely has the right to use his own image as he pleases.
  • Why would some “stupidly ridiculous person" try to capitalize on someone who started out digging graves and worked hard to achieve success as the greatest musician of my lifetime?
  • While some compensation would be in order, $2.5 million is a disgusting joke for one photo.
  • Where are privacy laws? It is great for an opportunist to get the photo of Rod Stewart but they shouldn't be paid for the priviledge.
  • The photographer is just doing this for the money and I hope she loses the case. She doesn't deserve a penny.
  • The photographer is trying to cash in on Stewart's fame and fortune. She takes photographs. Rod Stewart is a legend.


          Now I'm not saying that opinions don't matter. But I will say that the law is the law and there is legal precedent in this case. In my next blog entry, I will address some of these somewhat sophomoric, albeit heartfelt comments and how they fall into the context of intellectual property law. Stay tuned.

  • The Ad of the Century, continued...

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    On my earlier blog entries, I used the legendary "Think Small" VW ad, to demonstrate the principles of advertising and graphic design and how they are used. I also pointed out the truly masterful copywriting by Julian Koenig. [Koenig also created the famous, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" tagline for the Tmex "torture test" ads in the 60's.]

        Listed  in 1999 as the number one ad of the century by Advertising Age Magazine, this ad is still widely considered to be the the best ad of all time.



        Detroit had been busy for years rolling out big, ostentatious cars for the American consumer in a time when "big and ostentatious" was the status quo. Everyone seemed to not only want to "keep up with the Joneses", but to show the Joneses that they had a bigger, more luxurious and more powerful car.
        When Koenig (a Jew) and Krone visted the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, they told Bernback that while they hadn't yet created any ads, the marketing problem was quite clear... "sell a Nazi car in a Jewish town." Bernback was not amused. He put them to work creating a positioning slogan, using simple black and white magazine ads in a sea of color ads to drive home (no pun intended) the USP which would sell a strong consumer benefit to the US automotive consumer. Little did they know that the "Think Small" and "Lemon" campaigns would create runaway success for the VW Beetle. Starch readership studies would find that the ads had much higher readership scores than most editorial pieces in the various consumer magazines in which they appeared.

        Bernback followed this ad up with yet another iconic ad -- the VW "Lemon" ad with the famous tagline, "We pluck the Lemons, you get the plums."


    Ad copy

    This Volkswagen missed the boat.

    The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished and must be replaced. Chances are you wouldn't have noticed it; Inspector Kurt Kroner did.

    There are 3,389 men of our Wolfsburg factory with only one job; to inspect Volkswagens at each stage of production. (3,000 Volkswagens are produced daily; there are more inspectors than cars.)

    Every shock absorber is tested (spot checking won't do), every windshield is scanned. VWs have been rejected for surface scratches barely visible to the eye.

    Final inspection is really something! VW inspectors run each car off the line onto the Funktionsprüfstand (car test stand), tote up 189 check points, gun ahead to the automatic brake stand and say "no" to one VW out of fifty.

    This preoccupation with detail means the VW lasts longer and requires less maintenance, by and large, than other cars. (It also means a used VW depreciates less than any other car.)

    We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.




    Think it over Hmm. These revolutionary ads changed the way we make ads. Because of the stark contrast to the colorful magazine ads of the era, these comparatively simple ads stood out, broke through the clutter and arrested the reader's attention. Krone used the principle of "sequence" to lead the readers eye into the headline which contained a strong and compelling benefit, leaving the reader with little choice but to read the beautifully written, simple and minimalistic copy...  effectively selling this simple and minimalistic automobile. They "invented" the popular concept of today's advertising design that "less is more."

    Here are a few more classic VW ads from Bernbach and friends...





  • Media Use (Introduction).

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    "Let me explain newspaper advertising to you,"  said my new client, the owner of a national chain of oriental rug stores..."It is like buying real estate except you pay for the column-inch instead of the square foot. So, you need to make sure that you use every single column-inch of the ad to get the best bang for your buck..." Well... I actually agree with the sentiment that every column inch should be used to good advantage, but not by cramming every column inch with "stuff." As I explained to him, one of my favorite ads is a full page, full-color newspaper ad containing about 99.9% "white space" except for the center of the page which had a full color, life size image of a single Hershey's Kiss. The copy simply read, "In case of emergency, PULL." Ogilvy & Mather used every column inch to VERY good advantage to break through the clutter while displaying their tiny silvery product in full-living-color (color costs far more than black and white). This advertisement would have made a great outdoor billboard as the message could be understood quickly and easily. By the way, this extensive use of every single column inch in the "Little Hershey's Kisses" campaign which ran in print and broadcast media throughout most of the 1980s and '90s helped to restore Hersheys lead in the US candy industry in 1989 with a 43.5% market share from 27% in 1975. [After I 'splained these facts in detail, my client's perceptions regarding cramming column inches with "stuff" began to change.] 

         While this full page newspaper ad was used effectively for branding, newspaper ads can also be very effective for detailed price and item listings. But, an outdoor billboard would probably not be quite so versatile due to its limited space and the fact that prospects usually have only a matter of seconds to view them at the risk of plowing into the car ahead. Hopefully, not even my previous client would consider using a 30 second television commercial for detailed price and item listings. Nor would broadcast television covering a large DMA (as noted in a previous blog entry) be used efficiently to target prospects in a small local neighborhood. Indeed, the plethora of media vehicles out there can be used to great advantage -- or misused and even totally wasted. So, before continuing my blog entries on buying specific media, I thought I would write about the "whys and wherefores" of specifying appropriate media.

         While the creative department develops the concept the media planner's job is to determine which media will be most efficient and appropriate. So, an important part of our creative journey is the development of a media rationale for the creative brief. Often these decisions are obvious, but sometimes they require studious evaluation. In light of these facts, my next blog entry will contain an overview of a variety of different media and how they might be used effectively.




  • Media Resources.


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    As I mentioned in a previous blog, my first exposure to media planning and buying was when, due to my focus (minor) on computer science and information systems at Georgia State University's Robinson School of Business, I was asked to research and purchase a turnkey computer system for media planning and buying. My college internship had turned into a full-time agency job and this was one of my first assignments. I purchased a $30,000 (circa 1985) PC based media planning system from Telmar®. The system was primarily based on Lotus 123® macros using downloaded ratings data. Learning the system motivated me to dig deeper into Lotus® macros and dBase® programming...experience that later translated to Excel® (it is amazing how quickly Excel® replaced Lotus 123® as the industry standard).

       I learned a great deal about media simply by learning and using the Telmar® system. I was also very fortunate to receive “on the job training” via veteran agency media professionals who suffered from computer phobia. With Telmar®, you could instantly see how changes in spot selections affect the total cost and the reach and frequency of the buy, either for a single TV station or for all media in the buy. It was a great negotiating tool. You could instantly compare CPPs and CPMs between the same daypart on different stations while you have your station sales representative on the phone. The media mix capability included additional media such as radio, print and outdoor. In addition to Telmar®, I later used Broadcast Management Plus® and other software for media planning and buying. I also developed my own spreadsheets and a dBase program for entering and printing insertion orders.

       In addition to turnkey media planning and buying software, online research databases such as Dialog®, Nexis®, Lexis®, Dow Jones® and Dun & Bradstreet® are useful for doing media research and preparing media rationales. Other comprehensive tools are available through media providers – television/radio stations, media representation firms (media reps) such as Katz®, spot cable reps such as NCC®, and major newspapers. Here is a quick overview of a few media resources, many of which can be accessed via media providers:

       Scarborough® Research. Developed as a newspaper measurement tool, Scarborough® provides data on lifestyles, shopping patterns, media behaviors and demographics at local, regional and national levels. Founded in 1975, its services span 2,000 categories and brands which include retail shopping, lifestyle characteristics, consumer demographics and media usage patterns. You can have access to Scarborough via any major newspaper sales rep.

       Experian® Simmons® – formerly Simmons Market Research Bureau (SMRB). A leading provider of consumer behavior demographics information, Simmons® provides detailed brand, service and media usage information on over 8,000 brands and over 450 product categories. It provides data for Microsoft® MapPoint® software which can map profiles of consumer data by state and down to census tracts. Consumer usage of thousands of brands and services can be profiled via Simmons BrandTract® from any of six levels of geography – Total US, State, MSA, County, ZIP Code and Census Tract.

       ESRI GIS® -- formerly CACI®. This GIS and mapping software combines demographic data and mapping software which can be used for market analysis to determine which products and promotions can match the lifestyles and buying patterns of potential customers in specific geographic areas.

       STRATA®. STRATA® Marketing, Inc. develops premiere software for media planning and buying. They offer Spot TV, Spot Radio, Print, Outdoor, Local Cable, National Cable and Network TV Media Buying and agency products which provide in-depth Pre-buy, Buy, Posting, Reporting, media Billing and qualitative research capabilities. The agency media buying system, STRATA View handles the entire media planning and buying process from "A" to "Z." It includes multi-media Reach and Frequency allowing every combination  of TV, Radio and Print Media -- Reach, Frequency, GRP's, CPP's and more.

       TAPSCAN™. TAPSCAN™ is a suite of software for local market radio that is used extensively by radio station salespeople. It provides access to customized demos, geographies, dayparts and multibook averages. It includes qualitative (80 categories of Retail Spending) as well as quantitative (Ratings, CPP, CPM, etc.) data. You can enter GRP targets for specific dayparts and demos and the system will indicate the number of spots required to achieve them.

       SRDS®. Owned by Nielsen®, SRDS® (Standard Rate & Data Service) is the leading provider of media rates and data....offering comprehensive coverage of traditional media (magazines, newspapers, television, direct marketing and radio) as well as online and out of home. With 95% of advertising agencies served, it is the largest and most comprehensive database of media rates in the world. It provides an immediate, single source of rates for agency media planners for all media.

       SQAD®. An acronym for Spot Quotations And Data, Inc., SQAD® provides advertising agencies, media buying services, broadcast and cable stations, etc., instant access to real cost CPMs and CPPs by network and daypart, unit costs, CPMs and CPPs by program category and time period. Cost data is based on actual transactions.


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  • Broadcast Media (Part Two).

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    Ok…we’ve established that the proper way to begin development of a media plan is to establish a GRP target for your proposed market(s). It is critical to have a sufficient number of GRP’s in order to achieve adequate reach and frequency. GRPs are presented according to ratings of demographic groups within specific market areas as defined by Nielsen’s® proprietary Designated Market Areas (DMAs) [or Arbitron® Area of Dominant Influende (ADI)]. They are presented according to programs or dayparts. Television dayparts include Early Morning (5am-9am), Daytime (9am-4pm), Early Fringe (4pm-8pm), Primetime (8pm-10pm), Late Evening (10pm-1am) and Late Night (1am-5am). Broadcast media reaches very large geographic markets.

       The above map of the Atlanta market (my home market) shows how the Nielsen DMA encompasses a large part of the state of Georgia, as well as counties in Alabama and North Carolina [with 2,310,490 TV households, Atlanta is ranked as the 8th largest DMA]. This is great if you are promoting a chain of stores with locations throughout the DMA, or a product such as our skin creme (from the previous blog) which has broad appeal. In these cases broadcast television would be an efficient buy; possibly more efficient than other media. On the other hand, if you are advertising a single store location that draws from a small area you would be wasting money by reaching beyond your geographic target market. Cable television would be a much better option [I’ll talk about cable TV in an upcoming blog]. Demographics can change significantly across large geographic areas -- from urban to rural, upscale to downscale, blue collar vs white collar, etc. Nevertheless, for many products larger markets mean far better economies of scale. It is the cost per thousand (CPM) (not overall cost) of reaching your target market that dictates a solid media buy.
       The ratings services have tightly defined market areas. Nielsen defines their coverage in terms of their proprietary “Designated Market Area” or DMA [Arbitron defines theirs as the “Area of Dominant Influence” (ADI).] These market areas are ranked annually by market size and the top-ten Nielsen markets are highly revered. The current ranking of DMAs is as follows:

       Nielsen DMAs are areas that receive the same television programming from a specific group of broadcast television stations. There are 210 Nielsen DMAs in the United States [286 Arbitron ADIs].

       Developed in the 1940’s by Arthur Nielsen, the Nielsen Ratings are provided for specific demographic groups (Demos) for each DMA. These ratings have been measured in a number of ways, including telephone surveys, diaries, and Set Meters, and People Meters. Out of the 210 measured Nielsen markets, the 56 largest are measured by meter technology. The remainder is measured by diaries only. Nielsen measures all local markets during designated "sweep" months of November, February, May and July. The ratings are used by local stations and cable systems to set local advertising rates and to make programming decisions. The term "sweep" came from the beginnings of the ratings system in the 1950's when diaries were mailed and processed, starting with the east coast and "sweeping" to the west coast -- people meter markets are measured 365 days a year. The networks go to great effort to attract viewers during the sweeps...the higher numbers they get during the sweeps, the more they can charge for advertising time. They are often criticized for their rates not reflecting typical programming...during the sweeps there is more special programming and original programming, etc., while outside of the sweeps it is more common to see reruns.
       Nielsen data is expressed as percentages and presented in terms of rating and share. A rating represents people who watch a particular program or daypart, expressed as a percentage within the universe of all TV households or a specific demographic group (demo) -- a rating of one represents one percent of TV Households. Demos are broken into 66 specific age group segments such as 18-49, 25-54, etc. Share represents the same viewers as a percentage of TV households or total persons actually watching television during the program or daypart -- it can be used as gauge of how a program or daypart competes with other available programs or dayparts.
       Nielsen has recently started providing consumer segmentation based on socio-economic data from PRIZM NE lifestyle group clusters -- Blue Blood Estates (six figure income executives and professionals), Young Digerati (tech savvy, fashionable, urban fringe), Bohemian Mix (progressive mix of young singles, couples, students and professionals), among others...as the ratings system has been criticized for being quantitative at the expense of qualitative. Nevertheless, qualitative data is available from numerous other sources. I will talk more about quantitative vs qualitative analysis in an upcoming blog.


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  • Broadcast Media (Part One).

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    In my last blog, I mentioned that it is appropriate to think in terms of Gross Rating Points (GRPs) – not the number of spots to be purchased – when planning broadcast media buys. Here is a short demonstration using "WXYZ TV" a mock, top-ten ACNielsen DMA network affiliate.

       Suppose you want to advertise a new anti-aging, fat-burning, sun-screening, appetite-reducing, muscle-toning, beautifying, sun-tanning, skin cream product (using all natural ingredients, of course) that is proven to eliminate cellulose, varicose veins and love-handles while adding years to one's life. Extensive research indicates that the primary target market is Women 18+, stay at home moms. Your client wants to first run the ads in a top-ten, spot television market before going national.

       So you call the network affiliates in your test market and request availabilities (avails) in the DMA for the Female 18+ demographic -- believing that you need to run the commercial 30 times because your client -- who recently attended a one-day beauty business seminar -- told you so. You take a look at the Morning and Daytime day-parts for your Female 18+ demo for the fourth quarter.



    [Television viewers are typically loyal to programs as opposed to stations. Nevertheless, I am using availabilities from a single station for demonstration purposes. The numbers are representative of an actual "top-ten" broadcast TV market.]



       As you can see in the above "avail," the Female 18+ demo has dramatically different ratings and rates depending on the program. The cost per rating points (CPPs) are also quite different...even among programs specifically targeted to women.

       In the avail, Program "A" (top-rated morning show 1) and program "B's" (morning show 2) adjacent time periods have different numbers when comparing 9a-10a (1.9 rating) vs. 10a-11a. (1.4 rating). The gross rate for the 9-10a slot is $350, considerably higher than the $265 rate for the 10a-11a time period... yet the CPP and CPM are lower for the 9-10a slot. This is a better buy for the Female 18+ demo as you would be reaching 44.2 thousand vs 32.1 thousand at a lower ($7.92 vs $8.26) cost per thousand (CPM).

       An even better comparsion is made when comparing Program "F" (soap opera) vs Program "G" (homemaking show) which represent programming specifically targeting women. Program "F" gets a 2.7 rating for Females 18+ (reaching 64.4 thousand) while Program "G" only gets a 0.7 rating for the same demo (17.4 thousand). Program "F" has a lower CPP of $203.70 vs $250.00 for Program "G" So, Program "F" is a much better buy -- if you can afford it at $550. This simple comparison should be enough to discredit the absurd idea of buying media based on a predetermined number of spots for the simple reason that the same number of spots on one program vs another can yield vastly different reach at dramatically different costs.

       A far more viable approach would be to determine how many viewers you can afford to reach with effective frequency. Since the minimum generally accepted frequency is three times, you might want to consider shooting for an even better frequency of four times. If you bought 400 GRPs, you could reach virtually 100 percent of Females 18+ viewers in your DMA with an average frequency of four times. Assuming an average morning and daytime CPP of around $220 (based on your avails) your budget would be $88,000. It would be much more common (trust me) to purchase around 100-150 GRPs per week. So, let's assume that you propose to your client that they purchase 250 GRPs for a two-week flight. At an average CPP of $220, this would result in a budget of $55,000.

       A much quicker method for determining average CPPs would be to refer to SQAD. Since SQAD (pronounced "squad") is based on actual buys, it has the added benefit of providing you with a good indicator of what is actually being negotiated and paid vs what is presented by the respective stations on their avails. In addition to being a helpful negotiating tool, SQAD might also be helpful in determining desirable test markets based on average CPP data -- in consideration of buying power index data and other marketing research. At Davis Advertising, Inc., we strive to beat SQAD by a significant amount.

       Your job as a media buyer is now cut out for you -- get your client as much "bang for the buck" as possible by negotiating rates and developing a schedule -- using avails from a variety of broadcast (and cable) stations -- that will improve the numbers significantly, maximizing effective reach and frequency...based on both quantitative and qualitative insight. That will be the subject of an upcoming blog.


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  • Media (Introduction).

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    I was honored to serve as the final judge in the 2008 DECA, International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Atlanta this past Monday and Tuesday in the “Advertising Campaign” category. The events were held at the Georgia World Congress Center and the awards session was at the Georgia Dome.
       It was an awesome experience. On Tuesday, I evaluated twenty 20-minute advertising campaign final presentations from the top high school marketing students in the world. This was a truly humbling experience and I was impressed to say the least. It was virtually impossible to determine which of these student teams best deserved to be in the top ten -- much less the top three finalists! But, ties were not allowed and there had to be three top teams selected. ALL of the students who made it to Atlanta should be VERY proud!
       There was a relatively clear first place winner. This team's "situation analysis" actually included a “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis based on their "secondary research." As did most of the others, they defined their primary and secondary target markets in demographic, psychographic and geographic terms. Their objective was specific, workable, measurable and attainable. Their budget was realistic and comprehensive -- including development costs, production costs, media costs and agency commissions. They certainly showed evidence that they understood some of the basics of the “Journey from Concept to Creation!” 

      Of course, I was thinking about how these high school students could have REALLY impressed me if only they had been reading my blogs! Hopefully next year’s students are reading?

      One thing that really impressed me, in addition to the SWOT analysis, was that they mentioned running television spots in the “early fringe” time period. Plus, they actually spoke in terms of FREQUENCY! – gasp! They also referred to radio formats as Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), Adult Contemporary (AC), Album Oriented Rock (AOR), etc. They certainly knew how to impress the Adman with advertising lingo.
        Regarding my blog topic -- I am convinced that there are gazillions (possibly even googillons) of dollars totally wasted by those who are not educated on a few basic principles of media planning and buying. I have heard comments from inexperienced prospective clients (who could use a lesson or two from high school DECA kids) that go something like, “We think we should buy 30 spots on WXYZ TV.” After recovering from my “client from hell red flag alert,” I attempt to educate them. Puhleeze listen carefully -- it AIN'T about how many spots you are buying! 30 spots on one station is NOT the equivalent of 30 spots on another. Plus, different dayparts (Early Fringe vs Primetime for example) can reach dramatically different numbers of viewers! It IS about how many impressions (as measured by ACNielsen) you are making on your target market (reach). And it is also about reaching your target market a sufficient number of times (frequency).
       This leads to the basic, fundamental formula of broadcast media buying – Reach x Frequency = Gross Rating Points (GRP’s). So, when establishing a broadcast television media budget, it is prudent to first determine the average cost per rating point (CPP) for your target market in your market(s) -- as defined by the Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA). Then determine how many impressions you can afford to make with sufficient frequency (generally a minimum of three times). Then figure on the conversion rate (generally in the two or three percent range) that is typical for your industry…while considering the added value of BRANDING your product or service in the market.
      Now, when I hear something like, “We are budgeting for XXX GRP’s per week, based on the average CPP of $XXX (according to SQAD) in the target DMA for our Adults 25-54 demo…” I am as pleased as a DECA student after winning first place in the DECA ICDC awards session at the Georgia Dome in the Advertising Campaign category... celebrating by getting wet from the fountains at the Centennial Olympic Park after visiting the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke... with a front row seat at the NBA playoffs in the Phillips Arena watching the Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics... while enjoying Georgia peanuts and a Coke... with tickets for the studio tour at CNN..followed by tickets for "The Lion King" at the Atlanta Civic Center... or perhaps another show at the Fabulous Fox Theater...or Six Flags over Georgia...or the Stone Mountain Laser (and fireworks) Show? -- 

    To be continued...


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  • Typography (Part Three).

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    A long, long (really long) time ago I promised to offer some tips on typography. At long last, here they are. I hope they were worth the wait. My blog had to take the back seat for a few weeks...ok, months if you insist on counting the holidays. But never fear, I am still here...sort of like that nagging cough that you can't get rid of... But, deep down inside, I know you have missed me.

       So....here are some general tips for specifying type. They are in no particular order as none is necessarily more important than another. Remember that these are just basic guidelines...as you become more practiced as a designer, you can start to break some (but not all) of the rules.

    • *  Ideally, stick with the same type family for any given job. Get variety by changing the size and blackness -- and by using condensed and expanded versions and italics.
    • *  While it is permissible to mix a body face with a headline face, stay away from mixing two headline faces.
    • *  Constrain mixing to two faces -- three at the most.
    • *  Typestyles designed during the same time period do not necessarily go together… the character of the letters are a much better barometer to use when mixing types.
    • *  Old style Romans and Modern Romans do NOT go together and should never be combined.
    • *  Typestyles with different “x-heights” provide different degrees of weight when set as body copy. They can be used to help balance your layout...just as the "weight" of the letters.
    • *  Sans serif fonts can be used with almost any other typestyle. They are considered to be a neutral fonts.
    • *  Sans serifs should NOT be mixed with slab serif fonts.
    • *  Type mixing is mostly a matter of having good taste and artistic talent.
    • *  As a general rule, only mix types that are either very similar or very dissimilar. Others will appear to the reader as being convoluted – as if something is amiss.
    • *  When using colorful type, go a little larger and fatter than using black to compensate for the lack of darkness.
    • *  Never use small, weak serifs when reversing type or for use in Standard Denition video. Sans serif fonts are preferable in these applications.
    • *  Consider the use of ligatures, especially in headlines and logotypes. They can sometimes provide a more artistic or cleaner look. (Assuming the chosen font supports them, they can be found in the Character Map (Windows) or Key Caps (Apple) or by selecting “automatic ligature substitution” in your application.)
    • *  Explore the character map (Windows) or key caps (Mac) for special characters that aren’t available via the keyboard… learn the keyboard shortcuts for frequently used special characters.
    • *  Avoid script and cursive fonts that were designed to mimic handwriting. None of these fonts can adequately mimic handwriting and they only look phoney.
    • *  Generally, avoid using the Old English font. It is difficult to read and it tends to attracts attention to itself at the expense of the message.
    • *  For web design work, consider using Georgia (serif) and/or Verdana (sans serif). These FREE, high x-height fonts were designed to be legible on computer screens. They also work well with video monitors. For other suitable fonts, look for high x-heights, extended versions and “hinted” fonts. Bitstream, ITC and Monotype offer fonts with hinting.
    • *  Roman (serif) fonts are considered to be easier to read when used as body copy. The serifs form an “imaginary” line, helping to hold the eye on the line as it is read from left to right. Most magazines use Roman typefaces exclusively for body copy.
    • *  When working with type, “being different” is not a virtue. Through habit, readers are accustomed to seeing certain standards in typography. Change, in this case, can result in lower readership and/or legibility.
    • *  Break paragraphs into columns no more than 39 lower-case characters wide. The bigger the type, the wider the columns can be.
    • *  Drop caps can also be used to help draw the reader into your body copy, easing the reader from larger headlines to the body copy. But, the drop cap must be unied with the copy in terms of tone and mood. (Some designers consider drop caps as being dated.)
    • *  Take “quality time” to manually kern your headlines. Kern them so that they are optically balanced. Properly "kerned" headlines are the mark of a true professional.
    • *  As a "rule of thumb" – leading should be 120% of the point size.
    • *  Use “hinted” fonts when possible.
    • *  In the early stage of type specification, frst think in terms of classifications or categories of type, (Gothic vs. Roman. Old-style Roman vs Transitional Roman)… then narrow it down to a specific typestyle.
    • *  In addition, I suggest that you get into the habit of looking at the work that is out there… and consider the type choices that were used… and why.
    • *  If you cannot fnd a specific type name, it may be listed under a different name as different vendors often have equivalent fonts under different names. Apparently, it is easier to copyright typestyle names than the actual designs themselves.
    • *  User proper typesetting conventions – real typographic “curly” quotation marks, real EN dashes (hyphens separating numbers, etc.) and REAL EM dashes (longer marks separating thoughts – most page layout programs will convert these automatically when you type two subsequent hypens (which is proper when using a standard typewriter).
    • *  When doing layouts, it is a good idea to look at pages “in context.” For example, if you are doing a DVD cover, do each panel independently as it will be viewed by the purchaser of the DVD. If a magazine ad, you may want to position it in an actual magazine to see how it will look in-context as well. This may affect your choice of fonts and/or the relative point sizes, etc., of the work.


       Alright... that ends the series on Typography. I'll let you ponder the subject of my next blog...but I'll try not to wait too long this time. I can only use the "holidays" excuse once a year.


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  • Typography (Part Two).

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    The reason for proper type specification is simple -- select the typestyle that will best deliver your message. Designers are known to spend hours looking for just the right font to do just that. There are gazillons of typestyles from which to choose. The selection must be inviting to the eye and appropriate to the message. It should be consistent with the tone and manner of the creative program. It should also be legible (although it is sometimes used more as a graphic treatment). While type selection is primarily a matter of artistic taste, it is beneficial to be educated about the history of typography and the story behind commonly used fonts.

       It all started with the Egyptian alphabet (actually part alphabet and part picture writing), then the Phoenicians (based on trade rather than literary purposes) borrowed from the Egyptians and created an alphabet consisting solely of what we call consonants. Then the literary-minded Greeks came into the fray, adding vowels and giving it the name "alphabet" that we all know and love today. Then the Romans modified that. While there are some 200 alphabets, with over 50 in use today, the English alphabet, consisting of 26 letters (derived from the Romans) is the world's most widely used. Whew, breaking down all those centuries into one short paragraph was really hard to do. But, there is much more to the story.
       From Johannes Gutenberg's time (c.1400-1468) -- basically credited with the invention of moveable type printing -- to the eighteenth century, type designs were calligraphic (based on handwriting). The character and flow of handwriting was the result of the shape of writing instruments (reeds, brushes, wax tablet styluses). When letters were first cut and punched in metal, they were inspired by the broad-nibbed pen that was used at the time for writing. The pen would be turned at a slight angle resulting in thick and thin markings on the writing surface. These markings were the inspiration for Roman typefaces which are based on ancient stone carvings.
       Fortunately, the gazillions of typestyles are classified. They fall into four main categories of Roman, Gothic, script and ornamental (decorative). Typestyles can be further classied into broad groups sometimes called "races," as follows:
       Old-Style Romans (15th-17th century) -- thick and thin strokes with serifs. The difference between the thick and thin strokes is small and the serifs appear to merge into the main strokes. The axis of the strokes is "tipped" to the left. The serifs may be at slightly different angles and they are almost always bracketed. They can have slight imperfections, adding to their unique charm. Based on early Roman letters carved into majestic columns, they are both beautiful and most legible -- "warm and friendly." Common examples would include Bembo, Caslon, Garamond and Souvenir.
       Modern Romans (late 18th century) --  thick and thin strokes with serifs, but the difference between them is more pronounced. Serifs are stiff, straight and unbracketed. They have a more precise geometric design. Legibility is not quite as good as old-styles, although they are preferred by some typographers. Bodoni is a classic example.
       Transitional Romans (mid 18 century) -- Some of the old style characteristics, some of the modern. Baskerville is a beautiful typeface that is lighter than the usual old-style, yet less mechanical than the moderns. Other examples include Fournier and Times Roman.
     Sans Serifs (19th-20th century) -- Originally considered unappealling by purists, hence the name Grotesque or Gothic, there are three distinct types:
    1) Bauhaus inspired with formal proportions such as Futura and Spartan, 2) the Swiss-inspired gothics and grotesques which are less geometric and more sophisticated such as Helvetica (Latin for Swiss -- the names often reflect Swiss origin) and Univers, and 3) Humanist typefaces which look more like they were created by human hands, including types with thick and thin strokes but no serifs like Optima (Zapf Humanist), Radiant and Broadway. Other examples are News Gothic, Frutiger, and Gill Sans.
       Slab Serifs (19th century) -- The serifs and strokes are the same thickness. They have been known as "antiques" and "Egyptians" and some of the family names reflect Egyptian influences: Cairo, Karnak, Stymie, Memphis,etc. Slab serifs can make good headlines but lack legibility when used as body copy. When they have bracketed serifs and some difference in stroke thickness such as Clarendon, they tend to have more grace and beauty.
       Decorative--Ornamental (19th-20th century) -- While these typefaces can be given separate headings such as Old English, Latins, etc., I prefer to lump them into this group. These are fonts that do not fit into other groups. They are useful for advertising headlines if and when they convey the mood of the message..seldom if ever useful for body copy. Examples are P.T. Barnum, Cooper Black, Goudy Handtooled, Griffon Shadow, etc. They often have names that are descriptive of their tone and mood.
    (19th-20th century) -- Script fonts are meant to mimic cursive handwriting. The problem is that they simply cannot do so convincingly. So,  here is a tip -- it is, IMHO, best to avoid using them. They lack the irregularity of true handwriting, hence they tend to look phony. If you want a true script, turn to a professional calligrapher. Btw, when the letters do not join, technically they are called "cursive." Examples of scripts include Commercial Script, Brush and Kaufman.
       Grunge (1995) -- Designed more for image than legibility, Grunge has become a big enough movement to warrant its own category. It represents a large collection of "dirty" typefaces -- an outgrowth of postmodernism and deconstructionism.
       Inside these categories are the many "families" of type. Families are divided into series and the series are divided into fonts. Bodoni, for example is a "family" in the category of Modern Roman. Ultra Bodoni is a series and 24 point Bodoni is a font within the series. Within a particular font, there can be a variety of faces, i.e. all caps, small caps, caps small caps, caps and lower case (upper case and lower case terminology comes from early handset type cabinets where capital letters were in the upper section and small letters were kept in the lower part of the "type case"), all lowercase, all caps italic, caps and lowercase italic and all lowercase italics...adding boldface, expanded, condensed and letterspaced versions results in hundreds of faces -- all of which can be used in different sizes. The result? Gazillions of typestyles from which to choose.
       I should point out that I have really only scratched the surface here...attempting to offer a concise overview and a useful reference. In my next blog, Typography (Part Three), I will try to offer some additional resources and tips for choosing appropriate fonts. Oh... didn't I promise that in my last blog? I guess I lied -- or just ran out of room. Is patience not a virtue?


    I can't stand the guilt, so here is your first tip:
    · In the early stages of type specication, think in terms of classications or categories of type (sans serifs (Bauhaus vs. Swiss vs. Humanist) vs slab serifs vs. Roman (Old-style vs. Modern vs. Transitional). Decorative, Grunge, etc.), -- pick one of the more commonly used fonts in your chosen category and "rough" it in -- your potential choices are now far fewer -- then narrow it to a specic typestyle(s).


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  • Typography (Part One).

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    My early experience with typography goes way back to grade school. I designed my own type-style that I used in official documents for my fourth grade class. Classmates had to sign an agreement (or else!). So, for example, if you were the target of an errant spitball or two, you were bound by oath not to tell on anyone. Ironically, the ones who had spitballs on the floor around their desk would be the ones who always got in trouble. But the kids always seemed to honor their oath. The fact that the document was done in my "calligraphy" helped to ensure that it would be considered “official, legal and binding.”

       As mentioned in a previous blog, I started drawing at an early age. I was inspired by a popular artist, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, who ran ads featuring his hot-rod drawings in car magazines. I was further inspired by the great "big-block" muscle cars -- Road Runners, GTOs, Super Bee's, Chargers, Challengers, 426 Hemi 'cudas, Dusters, Old's 442s, Camaro Z-28s, Mustang Cobra GTs, Trans Ams, etc. My interest was also aroused by the fact that my friend’s father (two doors down) was Buster Couch -- the Chief Starter for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). He and his wife Ann loved the neighborhood kids; often taking us horseback riding, to the movies, and the drag strip.

       Plus, in addition to being into model building and slot-car racing (and flying downhill in homemade go-carts), I was even further inspired by happenings in my neighborhood. I lived near the crest of a very steep hill on a street between my grade school and high school. When I wasn't waking the dead playing my drums or playing pick-up football, basketball or baseball games, I would be having a blast (along with my beautiful and beloved German Shepherd, "Napoleon") watching “smoke city.” After school (with police lookouts bearing walkie talkies) the kids would line up in their "tricked-out" muscle cars… pour bleach all over the fat rear tires… rev the engine while letting the car roll backwards… “dump” the clutch and “burn out." The smell of burned rubber and layers of smoke would permeate the scene. Some would go to second gear before the car would start moving forward… a few could “get rubber” in all four gears. What more could a little kid want?  Life was good.
       A few years later, another friend who lived down the street, asked to borrow my notebook of car drawings to show his dad. I reluctantly agreed. His father recognized my world-class artistic genius and I found myself working nights, weekends and summers in the art department of his offset printing company.
       My digs included a large, hydraulically controlled drawing table equipped with T-Squares, triangles, X-Acto knives, non-photo blue pencils and a hot wax machine for "paste-up." There was also a dark room and a very cool "process camera" that was built into the wall of the darkroom. As a 10th grade creative professional, I learned to mix chemicals, shoot mechanicals and photos,  develop film negatives in a tray (line, half-tones and color separations), "strip" negatives and burn plates for press.
       I was drawn to the typesetting equipment like a tick to a dog’s ear.  There were three types of typesetting machines at my disposal... two were “hot type” machines -- a couple of Mergenthaler Linotype machines and a Ludlow. There was also a “cold type” machine -- the Phototypositor. Although the hot-type equipment we had was quite obsolete, I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it. I am more grateful that I was never burned by the hot molten lead. I’ve heard horror stories.
       As the “apprentice” I got to fill the molds with hot lead and hang the hardened “pigs” on the machines. To change fonts, you would insert heavy type font “magazines” into the slots at the top rear of the Linotype machine. There were separate magazines for each point size. They contained the matrices (“mats") -- each of which contained one alphanumeric character which was engraved into the side.  As you hit the key on the keyboard a mat would fall into place. There were also spacing bands that would fall down when the space-bar was pressed. Ingeniously, they were tapered so that they would fill the line out for justified columns. Each mat also had its character printed on it so that the operator could read the line before pressing the lever that would send it to the mold where the hot lead would be squirted. A few seconds later, while the operator was typing the next line, a “slug” would fall out in a tray beside the previous one and the lead "pig" would be lowered slightly into the melting pot. When the tray was filled, the slugs would be placed into "galleys" and into the proofing press. Thin lead strips would be placed between the lines to adjust the line spacing (leading). After the slug was cast, a long "elevator" arm would lift the entire line of type up and to the rear of the machine where a keying mechanism would turn... sending them back to their correct slot in the magazine. Gravity would do the rest. The proofs would be waxed, cut and pasted on the "pasteup" or “mechanical" by the resident world-class artistic genius talent.
       The other "hot type" machine was the Ludlow. It was a "hand set" machine used for type headlines. The "cold type" Phototypositor was also for headlines -- letters were visually selected and spaced. It was a predecessor of photographic computer typesetting equipment that I have used throughout my advertising career -- culminating with the Compugraphic adVantage page makeup system. It was a gazillion dollar behemoth with a color coded template/legend and a corded stylus -- networked to satellite Compugraphic typesetters and a large processor for outputting phototype galleys. In spite of its sophistication and high price (and the capability for the operator to trace visuals for positioning), it was not "WYSIWYG." The operator still had to insert arcane codes to specify fonts, point size, leading, kerning, margins, etc.
       Advertising agency copywriters or art directors would "spec" type (using type reference books and copyfitting techniques) and send out to thriving type shops such as "Swift Tom's" here in Atlanta. The phototype proofs were delivered by courier.
       Type shops and Compugraphic typesetting systems eventually gave way to the first "desktop publishing" software offerings (Ventura Publisher (my personal preference at the time) and Pagemaker). This lead to phototypesetting (e.g. Linotronic) service bureaus which produced phototype galleys from client supplied files. Service bureaus were eventually made extinct by "direct to plate" imaging equipment. These days, *.pdf files are simply emailed directly to the printer.
       While technology is ever-changing, design fundamentals and principles remain constant. So my next blog will focus on the more "timeless" principles of typography... and I'll try to offer some useful tips and resources..


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