Counting Counts: Six Reasons Everyone Must Read Erwin Ephron's Book 'Media Planning'

Dave Morgan

Founder & CEO

Originally posted on MediaPost

I was so moved by the speeches at last month’s memorial service for Erwin Ephron that I bought a new copy of his extraordinary book on how media works, Media Planning: From Recency to Engagement, hoping for a quick refresher. Surprisingly, I got much, much more than that.

When I read (or, most probably, skimmed) Media Planning six years ago, I knew virtually nothing about the real workings of the television ad industry. I was a digital guy and didn’t really think I needed to try to get under the covers of television media concepts, assuming that they would go away as soon as digital technology and concepts reshaped – and replaced – them.

Today, having spent the past five-plus years working in TV media, and learning about the field’s power, its nuances and subtleties, I have a very different perspective. Reading Ephron’s book over this past holiday really brought this home for me. Certainly, there is no better book to prepare someone to understand what the media and ad industries must do to successfully navigate the digital transformation they are undergoing today.

In Media Planning, Erwin Ephron asked (and answered) the questions at the root of advertising and its future perspective: How does advertising work? Why does media selection seem so irrational? Why does recency work? Why does reach always trump frequency? Why are current media measurement models so problematic? And my personal favorite: Why is media planning a conspiracy?

If you care to be successfully employed and productive in our industry for any meaningful amount of time in the future, you must read (or reread) Media Planning. Here’s why:

You will better understand the importance of measurement in media. Ephron starts and ends his book by discussing the importance of measurement. He begins with Bill Harvey’s invention of the ADI, and finishes with a quote from Lord Kelvin that was also a favorite of Art Nielsen’s: “If you can measure a thing then you know something of it.”

Most concise collection ever put together. No one else has written a book as concise, focused, comprehensive – and comprehensible – on the topic of how media is planned and bought.

You’ll better understand what’s wrong with media today. Ephron was on a mission to make our industry better. He truly understood its challenges and opportunities, and he chronicles them well here. Reading the book will help you understand how and why all of media will likely lose (or gain) consumer marketing spend going forward.

Very relevant for digital folks. Media Planning looks at the entire media industry and how it knits together in the planning, buying and measurement of campaigns. It incorporates both legacy and emerging digital media in the analysis. While some might mistake it for a legacy media book, it is nothing of the kind. Instead, it’s incredibly relevant for digital folks, particularly those who want to understand why TV dollars haven’t shifted to digital as fast as they would like. Reading it just might show some of you how to get that money faster.

It’s a fast and fun read. Ephron was a special writer. He had a unique ability to communicate complex concepts in simple and straightforward prose, and do it with charm. He didn’t waste words – and he didn’t here. At only 137 pages, Media Planning gets to the point fast, and his words are a delight.

It will make you smarter and better. Ephron was a very smart man with an extraordinary vision. He saw how things came together in ways most others didn’t. He was able to channel this vision in practical ways and helped change a massive industry during his own lifetime. Just his work on recency alone has probably been responsible for the allocation of hundreds of billions of advertising dollars over the past 25 years.

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