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Radio Gets Low Ratings From Marketers, Agency Planners

Medium Trails All Others in Audience Measurement and Accountability

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NEW YORK ( -- The second phase of an advertiser-perception study released last week at the Radio Advertising Bureau's 2005 Conference found that marketers and media-planning agencies rated radio's audience measurement, schedule integrity and accountability below those of broadcast TV, cable, newspapers, magazines and the Internet.

The findings indicate a wide gap between the radio industry's perceptions of itself and advertisers' perceptions of the medium.

The research, conducted by Padin & Estabrook, of New Rochelle, N.Y., and TargetCast, of New York, was co-commissioned by the Radio Advertising Bureau and Arbitron to identify discrepancies between the radio industry's perceptions of itself and advertiser's perceptions of the medium.

Pinpoint areas for improvement
The RAB commissioned the study to pinpoint areas in which radio can improve systems and perceptions. RAB President Gary Fries introduced the study Feb. 11 as one in which the "truth is not always what we want and, more importantly, not always what we think it is."

This second phase of the study differed from the first, which was unveiled at last year's RAB conference. The new survey sampled more national agencies than local and regional agencies, and media planners instead of media buyers.

The renewed emphasis on attracting national ad dollars comes at a time when local advertising has been fueling radio's revenue. While local radio advertising grew 3% in 2004 and makes up 80% of radio's advertising, national spending remained flat and presents the most room to grow in 2005.

Accountability is key
"This [study] is coming down now because accountability is the key issue with the marketing and advertising industries," Mr. Fries said. "And the radio industry, because it is very locally driven, has not had this on its radar screen. It was lethargic."

The presentation of the study was as much a pep talk as it was a reality check. Some of the radio industry's recommendations for reducing the gap in accountability perception included: offering more detailed, accurate ratings and a faster system of letting advertisers know when ads ran; improving schedule integrity; and electronic invoicing, to speed up verification of when ads were played.

Adopting Aribtron's Portable People Meters also scored high on the list of recommendations. While the radio industry anxiously awaits the results of Arbitron's first PPM trial, which is in the Houston market, the general sentiment is that a metered system will be more accurate and detailed than radio's current diary-based ratings system.

Mr. Fries says it all comes down to educating stations and their staffs that they now need to sell to their advertisers accountability and schedule integrity as well as ratings and demographics. "We're really drumming home that accountability is a requirement to stay competitive in this competitive environment," he said. "And that requirement has to be communicated for the station level people to react."

If they do that, there is much to potentially gain.

Going after TV
"If you can take these accountability issues and own them, you can go after the big dog -- TV," media planning veteran Steve Farella, CEO of TargetCast, told the radio executives and station sales managers who attended the presentation. "And if you can pull 2%t out of TV's revenue, you can have a pretty good year."

The fervent need for change and innovation was echoed by Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan, who was awarded the Radio Executive the Year Award for his "Less Is More" initiative, which aims to reduce commercial inventory and clutter on Clear Channel's 1,200 stations. He implored a ballroom of 1,500 radio executives and managers to embrace alternative and innovative programming, sales structures and means of reaching listeners.

"Our continued success in radio is not an entitlement," he said. "It will take a willingness to move from the familiar and comfortable. Remember the old definition of insanity -- doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result? Radio can't fall into that."

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