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Making spot a hot commodity

Feb 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Cathleen Campe looks great on paper. As senior vice president and director of regional spot broadcast for Los Angeles-based Rubin Postaer & Associates, Ms. Campe oversees seven regional offices and buys in 209 markets, working with clients such as Honda, Acura, UNICARE and American Century Investments.
But Ms. Campe has more than top-notch credentials in her corner. She also has upper management singing her praises.
“We’ve always had a spot group here, and we’ve been good,” said Chuck Bachrach, executive vice president, director of media resources and programming for Rubin Postaer. “But she took what we had, reconfigured it and raised the bar that would challenge any spot buying operation. There are competitors even within this market who are far bigger, and I would match Cathleen and her buyers against any of those people. Cathleen and her people are market specialists, therefore the clients benefit.”
Ms. Campe recently talked with Electronic Media about her career and the state of the advertising industry. An edited transcript follows:
EM: What are some of the challenges you face in the local market today?
Ms. Campe: One of them is staying on top of the audience. We know the fragmentation is there. Part of the business, too, is handling a zillion pieces of inventory. And when you talk about a fragmented audience, that means you even have more inventory. There’s a heck of a lot more work going on with the more fragmented audience. One of the biggest challenges we have-and I’m very concerned about-is the consolidation of these media groups and these stations. It’s a huge problem. It’s already changed the marketplace of radio. And the fear now [with television] is we’re going to be in a more difficult negotiating situation yet again for our clients. … It definitely puts the buyer side in a position of disadvantage.
EM: Regarding your audience challenge, would more detailed research help?
Ms. Campe: Absolutely. The amount of money spent in spot is more than is spent in network television. And yet we have such less detailed research for the spot marketplaces. We still have those antiquated household meters, which are better than nothing, but that’s only in 50-some markets now. And you’re telling people to fill out diaries and remember what they watched, and they have at least 100 stations. We would love to have [more research]. But every day we’re making buys, and I can’t always be thinking about that-we have to figure out ways to deal with what we do have.
EM: Will the soft economy be an issue for you this year?
Ms. Campe: Actually, it’s a nice feeling for a change. A good economy may make for some more difficult negotiations, but let’s face it: It’s better to be in a good economy for our clients just as much as for the TV stations. But for a small moment, a little change in that does give us a bit of a breather. It lets us put some negotiating room between us and some of the bullish stations. We’re very fortunate to have our major spot business with clients who are very resilient to economic difficulties. But let’s hope it doesn’t go on too long.
EM: Do you have any strategies going into this new economy and new year?
Ms. Campe: [Last year] was definitely a seller’s market. This year, it’s a little different story. You have stations and groups saying, `OK, do you have any more money up? What kind of business can we take from you?’ There’s a much different type of negotiation. And the good thing for our clients is that now we can get what we would love to get for them-be in the right environment, get the top programming, whatever it might be. But we feel strongly about working together with stations. I do believe in having that win-win situation. If you take care of our clients, we’re going to take care of you in a very honest way.
EM: It sounds like relationships are very important to your job.
Ms. Campe: There’s a lot of hard-core numbers and truths, but relationships are key. And a big part of that has to do with managing. You’re managing expectations. I really am adamant with our people that we make it very clear to the stations what we expect. And the better you can communicate and be clear in what your expectations are, the better you can do in this job.
EM: Your media buying career began at Wells Rich Greene in 1977. How has the industry changed in those 24 years?
Ms. Campe: The main thing is that everything moves faster, and we all handle so much more. I think back to when the fax machine came, and we thought, `Oh, that’ll never work.’ How did we ever get along without it? But we have a heck of a lot further to go. Our business is just so far behind when it comes to using electronic capabilities to handle the backroom stuff-all the tedious inputting and everything that needn’t be handled by a human. The industry’s getting better at that, but we have a long way to go.
EM: Have you done any innovative buying in the past year, something unique or out of the box?
Ms. Campe: One of the most interesting things we’ve done is actually in radio. Using some of the new software that’s available via Arbitron, we made our radio buys to make sure we covered the whole DMA. We made more targeted DMA radio buys, making sure that every single county was covered that a [car] dealer is in. That is different than it has been done traditionally. But I think that goes along with the way we work at this agency.
EM: How so?
Ms. Campe: Every client is concerned about making their budgets go further. So we really make a bigger effort at making sure our buys correspond in big events, like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. And we make our dollars look like they go further. So we will schedule specifically by events or days. Say the network has spots on the weekend. We’ll make sure in the major markets, or all markets if necessary, that our spots are on the Thursday and Friday leading up to it. I don’t know if you can call it innovative-I just think we take it a step further.