Arbitron's 'PPM Sample Target Guarantee' Draws Mixed Response
September 5, 2007 at 3:29 PM (PT)
ALL ACCESS received a letter ARBITRON Chairman/Pres./CEO STEPHEN B. MORRIS sent to PPM clients YESTERDAY, where MORRIS offered rebates should the ratings group fail to hit sample targets in future PPM data.
While ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL Chairman and COX/GREENVILLE, SC Market Manager STEVE SINICROPI was pleased with the announcement, COX RADIO CEO BOB NEIL was less than impressed, and GREATER MEDIA CEO PETER SMYTH offered a cautious, wait-and-see perspective.
Writing about the sample-size problems in PHILADELPHIA and HOUSTON, MORRIS admitted, "We are not hitting our sample targets in both markets. While sample sizes in HOUSTON and PHILADELPHIA debuted at or close to target, the total panel size dropped over the summer as we introduced a new "tough love" panel-management approach. Instead of trying to coach panelists into better compliance over a period of several months, we now give panelists significantly less time to exhibit good compliance (e.g., take the PPM from its dock in the morning, carry it throughout the day and dock it at night), or the household is removed."
Therefore, as of October 1, 2007, we will implement a PPM sample guarantee in which we will provide a deduction from your monthly bill if we fall below a minimum threshold of our 6+ Metro sample size target for the panel.
He continued, "As we began removing panelists at a faster pace, we were unable to recruit and install new panelists quickly enough to offset the loss. As of the JULY survey, we were 193 panelists short versus our average daily target of 1361 in Houston, and 179 panelists short versus our 1530 average daily target in PHILADELPHIA. That put the JULY total sample index at 86 in HOUSTON and 88 in PHILADELPHIA. Based on initiatives and additional dollar investments that we began earlier this summer, we fully expect to increase the panel sizes in these markets to their targets by late SEPTEMBER/early OCTOBER. We recognize that you expect us to reach our targets, and we acknowledge that our recent performance on this has fallen short.
MORRIS then introduced the "PPM Sample Target Guarantee."
"The ARBITRON RADIO ADVISORY COUNCIL, led by Chairman STEVE SINICROPI, has urged us to take strong steps to instill 'confidence in the currency' by holding ourselves more accountable for the delivery of key metrics on PPM. We understand that you want us to have some 'skin in the game' when it comes to our sample targets. Therefore, as of OCTOBER 1st, 2007, we will implement a PPM sample guarantee in which we will provide a deduction from your monthly bill if we fall below a minimum threshold of our 6+ Metro sample size target for the panel. We will work with the RADIO ADVISORY COUNCIL on the details of the plan to make sure that it is meaningful."
Read the full letter from STEVE MORRIS, here.
Bob Neil Not Impressed
COX RADIO CEO BOB NEIL, however, expressed considerable skepticism with ARBITRON's move, drawing parallels to past sampling rebate offers. "With ARBITRON, the devil is always in the details," he said. "Such a 'guarantee' exists now on the diary service. But if you look carefully to what's been happening, the 18-54 sample has been a disaster in many diary markets, but somehow ARBITRON has magically avoided paying a rebate because of huge 'increases' in the 55-plus sample that brings in the total 12+ number. So, the demos advertisers use to make buys end up being way under-sampled, but ARBITRON avoids paying a rebate. If you think that's a coincidence, you probably believe there really is a Lucky Charms leprechaun.
"Anything that puts the focus on 6-plus is a joke -- another one -- at radio's expense, NEIL concluded. "We need every major demo (18-34, 18-49, 25-54) to come in as promised. It's what we are paying for."
Peter Smyth Expects Improvement
While not satisfied with the initial sampling issues, GREATER MEDIA CEO PETER SMYTH was willing to give ARBITRON the benefit of the doubt in resolving the problems. "I'm pleased that STEVE MORRIS and the ARBITRON staff are responding to build confidence in their PPM product," he said. "Every broadcaster knows that it's harder than ever before to get cooperation for research projects; but when we agree to pay a significant premium for better research, our expectation of superior results is not unfounded.
"We also know that everything works better in the test lab than in the real world, and a bump or two along the road is to be expected," he continued. "However, ARBITRON and the broadcast community need to focus on the educational process that needs to happen as these rollouts occur. We still need to conduct our business in each new PPM market, and we all need to work to minimize the confusion and misinformation."
Positive Reaction From Arbitron Advisory Council
ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL Chairman and COX/GREENVILLE, SC Market Manager STEVE SINICROPI told ALL ACCESS, "I'm pleased that ARBITRON and STEVE MORRIS sent out this letter and it shows progress and a positive sign that ARBITRON is going to be more responsive to broadcasters' needs and concerns. It shows that we are all interested and committed to hitting sample targets.
"This is an important step and there are a lot of details to be worked out and more things for the ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL to review and work with ARBITRON on. This is a positive step toward restoring confidence in the currency."
Rebate Details Not Formulated; Contact With Council Members Urged
SINICROPI, when asked of what the rebate plan means to broadcasters in terms of dollars, and what events trigger those rebates, said, "The details of the rebate plan have yet to be worked out -- and this will be a long conversation between the COUNCIL and ARBITRON. It's important that broadcasters voice their concerns to ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL members. They can go to the ARBITRON site, and click on this link to do that."
Cume Vs. AQH - What's The Real Currency?
Why is ARBITRON pushing cume numbers so hard, and only providing cume numbers to press sources like ALL ACCESS, when radio still values AQH? SINICROPI said, "AQH numbers have looked so different in PPM markets compared to diary AQH numbers, and cume is the biggest number you can use in PPM. Part of the strategy is to show radio with the biggest numbers, which is cume. But the currency for radio remains AQH, and I think those numbers should be provided as well."