How I Used Spying and Deception To Increase Ratings
June 17, 2014
In Los Angeles we have all read about the Univision employee who allegedly is related to a Nielson PPM panel household, putting the data results in question. Subsequently, the employee has been terminated and the numbers are being reissued. This incident caused one of my clients to ask, "Have you ever done anything to get better ratings?"
When it came to diaries and Arbitron back then, I stayed clear of diary tampering and stuff like that. However, never let it be said that "sneaky" was not in my vocabulary in my quest for higher ratings and reaching bonus benchmarks.
There have only been a handful of future programmers with whom I have shared the secrets to some of my success. Like all PDs, whenever I am asked, "What are the keys to a winning music station?" I always give the usual answers, "It's about playing perceived hit music, marketing the station, promotions, a good supporting air staff with one star, community involvement, and a four-leaf clover for luck."
What I Left Out
Being a sports and history buff, what has always stood out to me was winning at all costs regardless of how. Winning is a high and so much fun, especially when you do it with the help of creative deception. There is nothing better than a well thought-out and executed plan to get the best of the opposition.
A Dirty Business
There is a book written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager, "George Washington's Secret Six." The book details the spy ring he used to save the country and win the American Revolution. Yes, this is the same George "I Can Not Tell A Lie" Washington who used every part of cunning and trickery to beat the British. George would have been one hell of a PD.
He figured the British had spies within his camp just like he did in theirs. The trick was to keep one step ahead and only put trust in the few men he had tested and proved worthy. Washington actually planted strategic information to protect his armies against counterintelligence. In order to win New York, he let the British find papers describing an attack on Manhattan as soon as a key British command had left the area to go and try and defeat new arriving French troops.
The British fell for it and waited for the attack. Meanwhile, the French were able to move to a secure area safe from naval and ground attack. By planting information he accomplished his main goal of getting the French in a strategic and safe place.
Two of my favorite politicians were Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. One of Johnson's sayings was, "I never trust a man unless I have his peck#r in my pocket." Richard Nixon was brilliant in many ways but too paranoid in others. Watergate was really about gathering information on the opposition to ensure victory. Unfortunately for Nixon, his spies got caught trying to get files out of the offices of the Democratic Party in the Watergate Hotel. Love them or hate them, both men loved to win and so do I.
My first confession is that on a couple of occasions I had interns who I encouraged to become interns at my competition after completing their time with me. These individuals would copy memos on promotions and all sorts of internal information. During my programming career I was only able to do this a couple of times because it took young men and women who possessed certain qualities. The keys were a person who blended into the background, were loyal to me, wanted to learn radio, and had the knack of knowing what might prove to be important for me to see.
I had a series of tests for new interns and if they passed my standards I never hesitated to lure them into my scheme for getting the edge. The only two people I ever used are still in radio to this day; one is a PD and the other is a Promotions Director. Nope, I will not reveal their identities. I am loyal, too!
The Secret Ingredient
Hard work, learning your craft and let your conscious be your guide. But I would highly recommend not doing anything like what the Univision employee allegedly did. This business is a small one and nothing is worth losing your stature or footing in this business. The difference between what I did and the Univision employee is a matter of breaking the Nielsen compliance rule which could result in legal ramifications and fines.
Just Say No
If someone did today what I did back then, it might be considered along the same lines as stock market insider trading or industrial spying. So, no if you ask, I will not morally corrupt you with the details of something which could ruin your career. So I will just say on behalf of all the experienced PDs with a flair for win at all costs, it's not worth it.