Want to know how to decode and convert an SCX file? Here is what you need to know when receiving an SCX file from your ad sales rep.  This article will cover:

What is an SCX file?

When planning a TV or radio advertising purchase, you may receive an SCX or XML file from your ad sales rep when you request a proposal or list of available inventory.  These files contain a wealth of information that most media buyers need in order to understand what they are actually buying.  At a basic level, the SCX contains the 5 W’s of a TV media plan.  It includes information on the market and zones of the ad spots

(including the population of those geographic areas), the station that your ads will air on, the program or time slot proposed for each station, the rating (a measure of how many people in a zone are expected to be watching at that time), the cost of the spots, and the quantity that the seller has available or is proposing.

  With this data, a media planner can measure the value of the proposal based on how many individuals in their target demographic will see an ad.

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Where do SCX files come from?

“SCX” or “.scx” is a data file format created by a media buying and media selling system called Strata.  Strata is now owned by Comcast and has been in the TV ad spot transaction business for many years.

As a result, many sales teams for spot cable, national cable, and broadcast TV use the software, and many sales reps will use either the SCX format to communicate with buyers.

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How decoding SCX files helps media planners

Media planners must understand the effectiveness of their advertising in order to place a dollar value on what they are buying.  Many marketers argue that the only true measure of advertising effectiveness is lift and brand equity, however, both of those metrics are nearly impossible to predict.  As a result, we rely on estimates available to us to derive the value of advertising spots before buying them.

For both TV and radio, this figure is based on an estimate of how many households watch particular shows at particular times and the population of the area that the cable, TV, or radio station covers.

The SCX file provides this data in a comprehensible format to estimate the value.  Additionally, by knowing how to decode SCX files, you can avoid the need for expensive software that doesn’t integrate your entire media plan and upload the data into a media planning tool or spreadsheet.

With this information, you will understand when and where the TV ads will air and how many people the ad will reach. As a result, a media planner can better understand value, not just cost.

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Viewing SCX or XML Files

There are a few ways to see what’s contained in an SCX file.  The most elementary way is to open the file using a text editor.  There are several options for text editors.  Some, like WordPad, will come pre-installed on your computer and have very basic capability.  A slightly better way to view these files is to open them using a web browser, which will adjust the colors of certain text to make the data stand out more.  You may have to hit the ALT key with your browser open so that you will be able to see the FILE>OPEN menu.

The best method to view an SCX or XML without expensive software is by using Microsoft Excel’s built-in XML reading tools.  To open the file using Excel:

  • Open Excel, then open the file from within Excel’s File>Open menu
  • Make sure to choose “All Files” (not just Excel formatted files)
  • Open the file
  • Select “Use the XML Source task pane”
  • If you receive an error, click “OK” to create the schema based on the source

To help understand what is contained in each of the markup headers, use the options to select “Preview Data in Task Pane”

Now your file should look like this:

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What is in an SCX file?

SCX files have a specific format that contains a wealth of data and information.  Let’s start with how the files are structured.

  • Document: This is general information about the document such as who the file is for and when it was created.
  • Campaign: Several of the top sections contain basic information about who the buyer is, how they can be contacted, as well as policies.
  • Demo: This is your demographic information. Usually it is “ranked,” meaning if the seller has information on different demographic groups (maybe different genders or age-groups), the ranks set the structure to describe which group the data below describes.
  • Buy Type: Describes whether it is a weekly, monthly, or yearly buy.
  • Population: This is a roll-up of the entire market’s population
  • Order: This is where all the real data sits. There may be several orders that apply to different markets or zones.
  • Keys: There are often several keys used to tell the decoding software how to handle certain data. For now, let’s ignore the keys.
  • Totals: Contains your total cost and total spots for this order.
  • Market: The Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA)
  • Survey: Details on the market
  • Population: The DMA order population. There may also be a “demo rank” to indicate which demographic it applies to.
  • System Order: The next level of detail down from order. This breaks down the buy into multiple zones used by the cable provider. You will see several levels of information in the next few segments such as zone name, population, and totals for that zone.
  • Weeks: This is a very important section. In the sections below, only the week number is referenced, so it must be tied back to the week start date in this section.  The flight weeks apply to the weeks listed here.
  • Detail Line: This is a header for each of the placements bought for this specific zone, market, and time period.
  • Start Time: for the placement
  • End Time
  • Start Day: of the week. Normally Monday.
  • Day of week:
  • Monday: Y/N indicated if it runs on Mondays.
  • Tuesday: Y/N indicated if it runs on Tuesdays.
  • Etc. for rest of week
  • Length: Of the ad. Normally 30 seconds for TV.
  • Day Part Code: A designation, i. e. PT for Prime Time.
  • Program: Name of the show i. e. “News at 9”
  • Comment: sometimes used to designate additional information
  • Network: Normally the channel i. e. CNN.
  • Spot Cost: Cost for each spot
  • DemoValue: Normally broken down by Rating and Impressions for a specific demographic (ranked above)
  • Totals: Total cost and the number of spots being purchased. This is the sum of flighted spots x Spot Cost
  • Spots:
  • Week Number: a numerical list of weeks (1-4)
  • Spots:

    The number of spots being purchased in each of the weeks reference in Week Number

  • System Order: And the process repeats for a new zone or different order.

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Decoding an SCX file

There are several ways to turn the single dimension of data decoded above into a multidimensional table that can then be viewed or imported into a media planning system.  Using the Excel XML Import capability mentioned earlier is one of the easiest method.   Using your mouse, you can drag the column headers (or the folders with multiple headers beneath them) into columns in a spreadsheet.  With this method you can drag a folder containing multiple attributes, or drag single attributes one-by-one.

Once the columns are created, hit “Refresh” under the Design Table Tools tab:

And your table will now look like this:

Now comes the fun part!  Okay maybe not fun, but at least you have the basics to start manipulating your SCX file.  You’ll notice that you cannot use an attribute more than once, but you can delete an attribute and re-use it in a different place, but basic Excel skills are all you need.

For example, to turn your “weeks” into dates, you can create a separate worksheet with the “week number” and “week start date”.

Then do a VLOOKUP on your main worksheet to replace the week number with a start date.

Make sure you refresh your table to see the new data, and once you’re done, I recommend copying your data and pasting it as “values.”

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Importing an SCX file into your media plan

Once you have decoded your SCX file, you are most of the way toward getting it into your media plan.  You may need to do a bit of additional work to align the columns to match your destination format. I would consult your media planning support staff to figure out the details.  The good news is that you now have all the data from the SCX or XML file in a two-dimensional format that is much easier to understand, copy, and work with.

If you’d like more information about how Bionic can help you to import your SCX and XML files, contact Sales@bionic-ads.com or call (603) 676-7285 ext. 109.

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