Everything You Need To Know About DMA Marketing  

November 22, 2022

The United States is a large country that comprises multiple time zones, not to mention thousands and thousands of miles. Therefore, it makes sense that people in different regions will have different values, personality types, and buying patterns. DMA marketing, which breaks down to Designated Marketing Area, is one way to account for these differences and ensure that marketing messages are specific to a desired region and the marketing segments therein.

What Does DMA Mean?

Because the United States covers so much ground, a system must exist so that television programming and advertising can be tailored to a particular geographic area. That, in short, is what DMA marketing aims to accomplish.

The term DMA refers to Designated Market Areas, of which there are 210 in the United States. The 210 DMAs cover all 50 US states, with some areas having multiple DMAs. New York City, in fact, has three DMAs, because the five boroughs of New York City have their own TV stations.

The idea behind DMAs is to establish local boundaries from a television perspective. The structure of the DMAs is governed by Nielsen, the company that oversees and administers TV and radio ratings, which can be broken down at a DMA level.

(It’s worth noting that the term DMA has no relation to the Direct Marketing Association, or The DMA for short.)

DMA Applications

The most relevant DMA consideration for most people is local TV stations. Whereas there are four major television networks in the United States — CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC — the actual stations people get in their local areas are affiliates of those four major networks.

A viewer might turn on a particular channel for an ABC TV show, but the actual channel usually has different call letters than ABC. That’s because ABC has different affiliates to service the various DMAs throughout the country.

Another noteworthy application for DMAs occurs in live sports, particularly NFL football, where multiple games that take place at the same time are aired by one network. However, the demographics of the individual DMAs determine which markets get which games. The NFL works with the networks to best map each DMA location to the game it cares about the most.

For instance, someone living in Buffalo will surely get to see the Buffalo Bills when they’re playing, but when other games are taking place, Buffalo’s affiliate networks will air games designated as particularly relevant by the NFL and the major networks. These choices not only affect what games people end up watching, but they also influence which ads are aired and how many people see those ads.

DMAs and Marketing

From a marketing standpoint, DMAs matter for two reasons. First, no advertiser wants to spend valuable ad dollars marketing to people who will never visit their stores. If your store is located in Detroit, and your goal is to get people to come in for a Black Friday doorbuster, it doesn’t serve you well to have that ad air in Seattle.

Selecting a relevant DMA means having your ad aired solely to the audience that is most likely to take action in response to your ad. This limits your ad spend and allows you to focus only on the people within your desired DMA that have seen your commercial.

The second reason why DMAs are important is that not all DMAs are created equal. Some DMAs have many times more viewers than other DMAs. Those additional eyeballs cost money, but it may be worthwhile for some advertisers to promote their products to such a large population, especially if a business is in the process of expanding to that area.

One significant area in which the use of DMAs has been part of an overarching strategy is sports betting. Currently, only 30 of 50 US states have legal sports betting. However, that hasn’t stopped the major names in sports betting from advertising in areas that don’t yet offer gambling. The idea is that these companies can start to develop name recognition so that when sports betting does become legal, customers will have an idea of where they’ll sign up.

Obviously, not every industry has massive amounts of advertising funds that exist in the sports betting business. However, using DMAs to promote businesses that are coming soon is a common strategy, so that people can become aware of products and services that will soon be coming to their areas.

DMA Targeting

Traditionally, DMA targeting has been an asset mainly for television and radio, particularly as it relates to promoting local stores and service providers. If you sell and install fences in Chicago, you don’t need your radio ad to be heard anywhere besides the immediate Chicago area.

It’s a concept that makes sense, in spite of its limitations. Prior to the advent of the Internet, small businesses couldn’t truly expand beyond their DMA — after all, how could they provide localized services to someone that lives far away?

But it allowed those businesses to build themselves up locally and gain market share within that DMA. When the Internet removed some of the barriers to expansion, those companies were able to leverage their well-earned reputations and grow their businesses.

Online DMA Targeting

Of course, in the modern era, marketing isn’t limited solely to one of the 210 TV markets in the US. You can promote your business to the entire world right now if you’ve got the ad budget to get your marketing message seen via paid search ads.

But bigger isn’t always better. And as we’ve seen in mobile marketing, local businesses matter, and people will always need to search for something in their immediate areas. And that’s where DMA targeting moves beyond TV and radio and goes into the digital age.

Google, along with social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook, allows marketers to advertise using the Nielsen DMA breakdowns. Although these ads aren’t governed by Nielsen and have nothing to do with Nielsen ratings, these geographical divides have become recognized as valuable by both marketers and advertisers, and businesses can use those regions as a basis for demographic marketing.

This is helpful to marketers because advertisers can now run paid search and social media ads right alongside their DMA-based ads on other media platforms. Companies don’t have to worry about capturing the right zip codes or demographic attributes. Simply choosing the desired DMA as the target audience for an ad campaign will send that ad to people located inside that region.

The use of DMA targeting in online marketing also helps businesses to promote themselves with a two-pronged approach. The specific nature of DMAs enables advertisers to reach their target areas, but maintain a broad reach within those regions. Even those who aren’t overly physically close to the business will become aware of the company through this advertising approach.

At the same time, that broad scope helps the business to reach out to customers who might not be in their exact zip code or specified mile range. It’s a great way for marketers to gain exposure at a high level while being granular enough to target people who are looking to take action right now.

DMA marketing is an old-school concept that not only has plenty of modern applications but can be useful to any business that’s serious about local marketing. If you’d like to learn more about how DMA marketing and online DMA targeting can help your business, contact us at Commit Agency today.