Thursday, February 28, 2008

How Radio and TV Are Better Than Google

It seems like Radio ad sales strategy has been trying to find a way to compete with the Google adwords and click through models and for the most part coming up with few if any answers.

The system of just paying for the 'click through' to your site from other sites where your 'Google little bitty Ad' might show up has some advantages. The biggest is that you only pay for the exposure that actually causes someone to visit your site or on-line store. The other vehicle is bidding on adwords that might pop up in a search so you are placed higher, or first, in the search and gain the click through.

While it's great that you only pay for the advertising that works or that you pay to gain a leg up on your 'world wide' competition. Does it really boost your business? Does it create any demand for your product or service? Does it build your brand or craft an image for a business? Surely people have built a business with these tools, but is it that they were first? Did they go after a niche that suddenly hit? I bet if you took a few thousand and invested in all the tools and did one of those 'drop ship items from China' business models we see all over the internet you'd probably just be out a few thousand.

Radio has been building demand for products, building brands and crafting images for clients for many years. It's been proven year after year for many different clients and businesses as long as they get enough exposure to 'crack the ice' and that they have enough creativity in their message to get into the audience's head they can build demand and awareness for product or service.

Just getting someone to notice you is not enough - you have to have a message and that takes more than placement on a search with 1 million sites returned in 2.4 seconds. It takes more than a few sentences in little black type on the side column of the ever busy web pages we see. It takes more than a few banner ads that are flashing away or the pop up that everyone figured out how to block a long time ago.

You have to really establish communication with the audience. Radio can do it. TV can also do it, but at what cost and how high is the creativity bar set when you have to produce a mini-movie to stand out in the media? Radio can be very creative, efficient, and powerful in developing brands and demand. You just have to learn how to use it.

Has radio really carried this message home in the light of all the new media competition? Based on most of the feedback from many sources from Wall Street to the quarterly sale projections it doesn't look like it.

On to another topic - Jim Cramer's Mad Money rants on radio recently have been rather interesting. I catch a show here and there and sometimes in my 'random sample' he takes calls that include advice on the Satellite Stocks. He's usually pulling out the BULL and hitting the big horn when they call. He's put himself on the line here. We've also seen the merger issues with XM and Sirius seem to take forever as they passed the 1 year anniversary in their request. Many, including Creamer accuse the NAB, Congress and the Election year and perhaps some of it may be true - who knows what goes on in Washington off the floor these days.

But, you have to wonder if Cramer also has something at stake here - his reputation. If the merger goes through the stocks will go up for both Satellite casters and his predictions and reputation will improve. Even if he doesn't have anything invested here - his reputation is somewhat of an investment given the higher profile he seems to be striving for every day. Watch the Today show - Cramer is there a lot. He's got books, the show, - he's probably jealous of TV star rocket ride that Rachael Ray is pulling off. It's more than just being an investment guru for Cramer - it's chasing Oprah.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

All Christmas - It Took GUTS

We've all seen the success of going All Christmas Music for AC/Oldies and even Country radio. The numbers show impressive gains year after year. It's become a rather obvious strategy that has spread to nearly every market in the land. The AC format across the land shows up with significantly bigger shares in the Fall and it's due to the tactic. The most recent format analysis from the Fall 07 book shows around a 10% increase for ALL/AC shares over the Summer shares, but if you just pull out the Mainstream AC stations (leaving out urban, hot AC, and Modern AC - who mostly avoid the Christmas tactic) you have a 17% share increase.

I can remember when it was first conceived, working in the Clear Channel VP Programming world we had a gathering of the 20 or so 'minds' and the strategy idea came up to work with the AC stations to go all Christmas. It wasn't the company mandate at the time, in 2001, and we had to go out and try to introduce the idea to the fleet of AC Programmers and Market Managers.

The problem with AC at the time was a lot of pretty successful stations that required a lot of marketing. The format itself was also fairly slow moving in adapting anything. Great care, debate and thought went into any innovation from rotations to music breath to the style of the air staff. The environment of the station was the 'key to success' and any changes in it were often viewed as dangerous at best.

At that meeting there were only a few examples of stations that went all Christmas in November. St Louis had a classical station, Grand Rapids had the #3 AC station go all Christmas and maybe a few others scattered around the markets. While there were solid success stories many of the programmers and managers we presented the idea to thought 'this won't work here.'

The feeling from many was it will ruin the station and push off all the listeners who like the variety, tempo, era flow and music blend. We also didn't know what Christmas songs worked and in the end there are only 50-75 big hits here so the repetition could be grueling.

Even New York was not eager to use the strategy. The feeling was that New York had too many Jewish listeners and they don't celebrate the holiday in the same way most of the Christmas songs do. NYC also had tons of revenue and no one wanted to upset that apple cart.

We all know the story now. AC has made Christmas music a staple and it draws tons of cume to the stations without tons of marketing.

The lesson for all of us from this, regardless of your format, is to keep your mind open to new ideas. Jumping on any new idea, song, imaging style, marketing tactic, or jock could be the 'killer card' it could also be the 'big flop' and ruin the 'secret sauce' that's central to the station's success.

You have to evaluate the idea carefully, but don't be too careful and watch it beat you down the road. Yes, you have to 'know when to hold them and when to fold them' but don't make your first reaction always to 'fold.' Many of our formats need to invest in new ideas, strategies, and tactics. With all the new media competition standing on the past treasure chest won't cut it and we all know it. It's time to innovate and look at new ideas.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Handling Sex With Class

I always marvel at David Letterman's show and how well he handles guests, topics and even controversy - and it's also a very funny and entertaining show. Often when meeting with morning shows examples pop up from Letterman's show that really help the talent see how to entertain the audience.

I was watching recently and Dave had on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model. Dave managed to turn the segment into a pretty sexy moment on the show, but he didn't even get close to being crude, un classy or to risque for the mass audience. Take a look at the segment that covers a lot of topics that we often hear (or heard) on shows like Stern but watch how Dave manages the territory:

Instead of making it shocking - he makes it funny yet still titillating.

Also wanted to pass on a piece from Jaye Albright's excellent Breakfast Blog. Jaye consults mostly country stations and had a great piece on a recent Deloitte and Touche study on the media usage from the 4 big generations. It's clearly worth the read -

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Random Sample - No Longer Random or Accurate

For years in research we have relied on the "Random Sample." It's the core of statistical based research that relies on a sample instead of a census. We all know the theory that in a world of limited options we only have to talk to sampling of the population to get a confident estimate of their behavior.

When the Telephone came along sampling became easier. Suddenly research became pretty simple. Get a phone bank together and get a list of the telephone numbers in the community then put together a random formula to grab the names and call away. At first it was easy as everyone had a phone, very few had private or unlisted numbers, answering machines were rather complicated new fangaled equipment and caller ID wasn't available.

Now we are in a world where the land line phone is a relic. Over the last 20 years the database has become torn apart by more and more unlisted numbers, don't call lists, over tele-marketing, caller ID, answering machines, and the biggest issue THE CELL PHONE. So where do we go from here in research?

Perhaps the first realization we need to make is that a simple random sample is really no longer available. In most of our research we stratify the sample in some manner, perhaps making sure we hit a sample goals. In Arbitron we have ethnic groups, population distribution across the market and demographic groups involved in various sample goals. In our radio product research we also limit ourselves to target audiences and P1 preferences based on the goals of the project.

So why are we still clinging to the idea that we need to have a random sample in research for it to be accurate? What we are really doing in nearly all reserach today is building panels. Groups of respondents that fit some picture of the world we are looking at - realizing we can't see the whole picture on any subject in today's world.

I bring all of this up because we need to start looking at a different model for our panels. It will have to start with Arbitron which is still clinging to the old land line phone database.

Now Arbitron hopes to get a little wider view from the shrinking land line phone view from going back to home address based databases in combo with the land line database. By comparing the 2 they can find out who are the cell phone onlies and try to get them into the panel by going around the phone.

The problem here is that while we all probably have a mail box it also suffers from many of the same problems we have in using the telephone. We screen the mail closely and quickly sort non important items and Email competes with the mail box for a lot of communication needs.

We're going to have to reach out and build a complete database and it's going to take more than an outdated phone and address list. We need to communicate with the audience and the sample on the internet - it's their new community and finding sampling tools here needs to be explored quickly. It's a fast moving world and unless Arbitron starts to experiment here and move a lot quicker we will continue to live in the past with the audience estimates we sell with.

There are many experiments to tackle including building panels using email, text messages, social networks, and reward based incentives. Yet, we seem to find the radio research community looking at the web options with an evil doubting eye. Look at Neilsen's web site research where they are purely soliciting the panel online. You apply to join up and are rewarded if chosen to put a collector on you browser to relay your activity back to Neilsen for their data. In their TV research they gather the panel by door to door solicitations, the phone and via email. And once you are in the panel you stay for years much like PPM.

How about building a big panel that we pick from for the diary system that will still be in place for 150 to 200 markets for at least the next 5-10 years. If we had a nicely proportioned panel of 10,000 in many of the markets where we have 1000 diaries in a report we could draw from that sample and suddenly it would be easy to find enough males or Hispanics or 25-34s. We have a group that knows how to complete the survey, is better compensated (since we don't have to go to all the expense of random dialing through the whole database), and reliable to respond. A lot better answer than striving for a Random Sample in a world where no sample is random any more.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tax Time SALES IDEA!!!!

Want to have a remote package that you can sell to lots of clients?

One that all of you audience will benefit from?

An idea that creates SALES at the event for the CLIENT?

It's a simple one and maybe you've tried it before.

You team up with a local Tax Accounting service and set them up at the client's remote.

The audience brings in their paperwork and maybe last year's taxes and you either calculate their taxes or just do the whole return right there. They know their refund and with a little paperwork apply the refund to the appliance, furniture, car, or any other purchase.

Dress it up - make the tax team the ABC Tax Service - Rock 105 Cash Cows or some other fun name that ties into your station brand.

Have fun with the accountants - turn them into 'personalities/characters' in the spots and on the air during the remotes.

Get real people on the air - Interview the listeners in the remote calls 'just got 2 grand back and we're into a new Ford Edge.'

If you start now you can be just in time. The tax team just takes a laptop and now they can file electronically so the whole deal is done right there. All you need is Internet access and they probably need small printer and you're up and running.

If you get there first and make it fun/entertaining you can own this remote package.

You still have time if you hustle - we have 9 weeks to tax deadline and you can get at least 6 weeks of action here from March 1st to April 15th.

Yes this is an old idea, but one we don't hear much and with the recession underway you and your clients need some tricks up their sleeve.