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With a new Arbitron study in hand, a growing number of ad agencies are considering spot radio post-buy analysis policies that make radio more accountable.

The stakes are high for marketers and radio alike. Year to date, spot radio-by far the largest radio segment at 96%-has been an $816.6 million market.

Many agencies are reviewing a report from Arbitron on post-buy analysis.

Post-buy analysis is the process of reviewing a buy after spots have run to determine if buying criteria were met.

Arbitron's recently completed study, "Radio-Schedule Audience Estimate Reliability," questioned if available data were accurate enough to narrow buys down to specific hours. "It quantified some axioms about audience estimates," said an Arbitron spokesman, listing such adages as "bigger samples are better" and "broader demos are more reliable."

Last spring radio broadcasters were up in arms after a posting plan from Young & Rubicam, which has spearheaded the idea, was made public. But, when the agency's focus appeared less directed to make-good guarantees and more about a fair rotation of radio spots, broadcasters relaxed somewhat.

One early opponent, Emmis Broadcasting President Jeff Smulyan, said, "We're all in this together, ad agencies are our partners. We think posting doesn't fit but [fair rotations] are a legitimate issue, though guarantees are different."

Y&R, which is developing software with Donovan Data Systems, New York, plans to implement a posting methodology before the end of the year.

DDB Needham Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson USA and others also expect to implement posting programs of their own soon.

"We want to establish the fairest way of looking at the numbers," said Maggie Ross, senior VP-director of local broadcast and network radio at Y&R. "Arbitron has proved they are postable."

Still, the issue has created a rift in the ad community. Dennis McGuire, VP-associate director of broadcast at the Media Edge, New York, called post-buy analysis "a worthless and time consuming process" due to the additional processing required. "Of course we should provide accountability but it should be up to the buyers to know their stations and markets," he said.

Howard Nass, senior VP-spot broadcast director at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York, said, "The Arbitron study hasn't changed our point of view one iota. The big problem is radio listening is very fractionalized. ....sample size is why there are fluctuations."

But both Arbitron and Y&R are confident in the data for posting purposes. "The study addresses the reliability of our estimates with a particular use," said the Arbitron spokesman. It is the fourth time in 20 years that Arbitron has examined the reliability of its radio ratings.

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