WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?
When I was a baby PD at WCTC in New Brunswick, NJ my corporate boss was Julian Breen. Julian was smart and his teaching style was something akin to a cave man beating you with a club. Funny, today I love Julian Breen. (in a neck up non Harvey Weinstein way)
I remember Julian schooling me about ratings. “Mr. Hill why do we buy Arbitron?”
My wrong answer was “to help us program the station.”
BAM. “NO!” “We buy ratings to affix a price to our advertising.”
“Mr. Hill, why do we continue to buy Arbitron?”
At this point the white flag of surrender was my move. “You know Julian, it’s clear I don’t know.”
BAM. “Because they tend to replicate themselves. They are generally believable. Top stations continue to appear at the top. Weak and poor performing stations continue to be at the bottom.”
“Last Question, Mr. Hill when will we stop buying Arbitron?”
Again way back in the early 80s I didn’t know.
BAM. “When they become truly unreliable we will stop buying them.”
Julian studied everything radio ratings. After Greater Media he created SuperTrends. He saw many programmers try to extrapolate monthly ratings from rolling averages. His goal was to help programmers look behind the curtain of Arbitron so we could figure more out.
In 2005 Julian passed away. Surely in Rock N Roll heaven he is ranting inside the building at K-GOD 100 about how it should be done!
Julian lives on in the people he hired and trained.
What would Julian say today?
One of my very best radio friends today who I will protect as “Mr. A.” have talked about this a bunch.
A and I have talked many times about replacing meters with cell phones so the (N) count of devices would grow exponentially.
We’ve even imagined that they would be connected in some way to the purchase behavior of the phone owner.
That way we could better measure the effectiveness of spot advertising on radio. We see the way we are doing it now as the “horse and buggy” phase of audience measurement.
Last night at a Mexican dinner in a discussion with A I asked him, “you want me to blow the top of your head off with a concept?”
We should watermark the spots on each radio station and just detect the spots.
You see we don’t really care how many people listened to “Hotel California” by the Eagles. The advertisers don’t care. They don’t even really care about how many people heard their spot. What they really want to know is how many people heard the spot and then made a purchase!
Yes, one spot is not how it happens.
Radio is a reach and frequency medium. We help build images and awareness. Hopefully we can build or be part of an overall effort to get a sponsor “top of mind awareness.”
Today I don’t need tires.
I might need one later this afternoon. But right this very moment my tires are fine.
At this very moment I don’t need a plumber, a tow truck, a new mortgage, banking services, my house painted etc.
The question is “who will I think of when I do?”
I posit that our current ratings system is far from what we really need.
I could pontificate at great lengths about my concerns about “M Scores.”
In radio we are attempting to measure every song.
Why the H E double hockey sticks don’t we measure spots?
I have a strong hunch Julian Breen would say, “finally Mr. Hill a decent idea from you.” BAM!
Why not measure spot reach and effectiveness at least in your local marketplace?
I have ideas on how it could be executed! (Hint it’s not expensive and it will work!)
Are you a GM or GSM that wants to get started?
Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888