What is a Designated Marketing Area

A Designated Marketing Area, or DMA, is the geographic area where residents can receive the same local TV and radio stations. It sometimes also applies to newspapers and online content. DMA’s are also referred to as TV markets, broadcast markets and media markets. These markets are ranked based on size of population included in the region, not region size. This means Designated Marketing Areas can include multiple metropolitan regions, they can divide cities, or they can overlap. DMA’s are used most often to measure audiences. Market researchers will look at audience demographics as well as the product that they are consuming (TV shows, local news shows, etc.) The internet has changed the way companies use DMAs with a pivot away from solely geographical considerations. However, DMAs are still an incredibly effective way to target your audience and reach your marketing, PR, and advertising goals.

How Designated Market Areas work

  1. It centers on a major city

    Designated Market Areas are generally named based on their largest metropolitan area. For example, New York City is the name of the DMA that covers NYC, but also includes portions of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. New York City is the largest media market in the U.S. DMA’s are also often hyphenated. For example, DFW is the name of the DMA that covers both the city of Dallas and Fort Worth — both of which have millions of consumers. You can find the boundaries of a DMA on The Neilsen Company’s website, along with the rankings of the markets, which are based on size.

  2. It's measures the audience

    DMA’s are used to measure the demographics of consumers. Television news stations will evaluate the demographics of their audiences and use those results to make content decisions that will matter to their viewers. Advertisers will use DMA numbers to place ads at certain times of day or within certain TV shows, to reach the target audience for their product. Combining a targeted message with an interested audience is the goal for both media outlets and their advertisers.

  3. It measures the product

    DMA’s are also a way for media companies to measure their own product. The Neilsen Group puts out daily ratings for each hour of the day. This shows how many people were watching a given channel at a given time. These ratings are used by TV news stations to understand what stories and styles of news shows are attracting audiences. It also allows gives advertising departments power. An ad spot during a highly-watched program, like an NFL game, can be sold for a lot more than an ad spot in the middle of the night. And advertisers have concrete numbers to prove it, based on the local DMA.

  4. It helps to focus your message

    Designated Marketing Areas consist of people that tend to have many things in common. Whether it is geographical, cultural, or needs-based, you can bet what matters to people in Flagstaff, Arizona, may not be the same things that matter to those in Indianapolis, Indiana. Choosing the right DMA helps you to focus your message to the people you want to reach the most.

  5. DMAs aren't the only game in town

    Internet steaming has created huge changes in the DMA market. What was once the main way in which companies reached people, the internet has changed viewing habits and information consumption habits in ways the are not geographical. DMA companies like Nielsen are adapting to account for streaming to get an accurate count of what media people are actually consuming which will keep DMAs relevant even as the media landscape splinters from its historically geographical basis.

Designated Marketing Area Best Practices

  1. Research your DMA

    Understanding Designated Marketing Areas is key to getting key messaging across to the right audience. If you want to get your message across to consumers in Tampa, it is important for you to know that they are categorized in a different DMA than Orlando — even through the two cities are just 80 miles apart. Research your DMA to learn about the audience and the locations that are included.

  2. Use a DMA for leverage

    In Public Relations and Marketing, we talk about target audiences all the time. With DMA’s — all the demographics you need to know are readily available. Use the information available to tailor both your product and your advertisement to the audience. Then, find the correct time of day and show placement to make sure that your product reaches the largest members of your target audience.

  3. Use your DMA for pitching

    The larger the DMA, the harder it is to create earned media coverage. Media outlets in these areas are much more selective in pitches they accept and stories that they cover — because there is so much competition. It is easier to get coverage in smaller areas. The more understanding you show about the DMA, the more journalists and media members will trust that your pitch is a story their audience will care about.

  4. Budget for your target DMA

    It is important to be realistic about the DMAs you're interested in reaching because the cost of entering and having an impact in different markets can vary wildly. The rule of thumb is that the larger the DMA, the more it will cost to effectively target your consumers in that market. The reason for this is the generally higher cost of living in these areas, putting PR and advertising efforts at a premium because reaching these audiences is most desirable. Be realistic about your budget and where your target audiences really reside. Spending a small budget on a mid or large sized DMA may not be cost effective in the long run.

  5. DMAs are a tool, not a given

    Just because you're operating in a highly coveted DMA, doesn't mean that you will reach your goals. It is important to be pragmatic about which DMAs you choose and to do so wisely. You may get a better return choosing a smaller DMA that contains enough of your audience to make a difference than a bigger DMA where your message will be diluted among large audiences that are not interested in your product.

  6. Reach out to a DMA specialist

    There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right DMAs for your message and companies that specialize in connecting the right companies with the right DMAs is invaluable. It may seem easy on the surface but mistakes can be costly. Trust the pros to this.