Radio Offers Lessons in TV Measurement

Nov 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster

Special to TelevisionWeek

Engagement, recall, post-analysis-all are proven ways to measure the punch power of a television advertising plan. But where do we go from there when the television world yet again seems to be changing as new TV channels spring up on-air and online?

It could just be that the future of television measurement already exists in the lessons that the radio industry has already learned.

We spoke recently with Bob Michaels, past VP of PPM Programming at Arbitron, where he helped develop and launch the Portable People Meter digital audience measurement tool .

Here is an excerpt from the interview with Mr. Michaels, who is now president of radio consultancy Bob Michaels’ Media Sense.

TelevisionWeek: Recently, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, SC Johnson, Kraft, Pepsi, Pfizer and Unilever, a very impressive roster of companies, signed on for Project Apollo, which features a blend of PPM technology plus Arbitron and ACNielsen consumer product purchase data. How might this change the television advertising sales landscape?

Bob Michaels: I believe this is interesting. On one hand, you have the radio industry wanting electronic measurement for decades but until recently was slow to accept PPM data. On the other, you have the advertisers and agencies who have said electronic measurement is what they want and are willing to go around the industry if the stations do not choose to encode. What they want is better measurement of their commercials.

Apollo uses the same PPM technology but adds Nielsen’s Homescan panel to discover what the panelists brought home from a selected store. What radio and television stations should not forget is the advertisers are mainly concerned about the amount of ears and eyes reached by their commercials. They need to move product. But it will require both radio and television to change strategies a little.

TVWeek: Encoding a radio station signal makes PPM data available. What if the TV industry encoded their programs? How could everyone benefit?

Mr. Michaels: There are ways that television could see huge benefits. First, television stations buy radio ads heavily, especially during sweeps. Yet many of those buys are based on only demos. With television and radio encoded in the same market, the television station manager could learn about which radio stations their audience listens [to]. Those radio stations can then be used to remind people of a television show for that same night.

The benefit here is that, after the fact, you could also find out how many of those radio station’s listeners tuned in to watch the promoted show that night. This information was made available with the Houston PPM test.

A second way for television to benefit is with their local news. Being able to track a television station’s local news audience flow has already been valuable. While it wouldn’t be used for negotiations, it certainly would help a news director understand what segments keep or lose audiences.

The third is the out-of-home audience that is available today from the PPM. The recent postseason Major League Baseball season showed as much as 89 percent of the television viewership for persons 18 to 34 takes place outside of the home. This is in line with other PPM studies that showed that young adults are more likely than average to watch TV away from home. I’m not sure why the television industry is not clamoring to get their hands on this data to support their cause.

TVWeek: Nielsen decided not to move forward with Arbitron’s PPM, but nearly 90 percent of the national radio advertisers and agencies have signed agreements to use PPM. What’s PPM data done for media planners?

Mr. Michaels: Where television has always had an advantage over radio was being able to sell to different levels of advertising customers. You have the fixed-position buyers who pay to be placed in a particular show. You have the lower-rate buyers who want to get on the air for the lowest possible price. Both exist today in radio and television. But in television you also have clients willing to be part of the blockbuster programming-the shows that are known to deliver a higher audience in the past and will likely do so again.

TVWeek: What has the new digital Portable People Meter taught the radio industry about American consumers?

Mr. Michaels: The most recent highlight is that 92 percent of radio listeners stay tuned through the commercial breaks on radio, much higher than we may have thought. Second, there are many people who are listening to any particular radio that are not being picked up by the diary. What radio needs to figure out is how to pre-sell itself to advertisers. Right now we are grappling with how to make money with it.

TVWeek: How might PPM change the way radio is sold to advertisers?

Mr. Michaels: Television has been able to measure accurately and promise the advertisers a certain audience level. But the radio industry with the diary service has not had that luxury. With PPM they will have it. The daily sample sizes using the PPM panel will allow stations to not only measure that audience on any particular day but be able to provide the information in a timelier manner.

TVWeek: What are you doing to help clients with PPM?

Mr. Michaels: Well, my focus is to help radio stations sell special events, just like with television. Here, radio can learn something from television: how to properly promote upcoming content that will drive an audience to a time period.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.