Arbitron: In-Tab Progress, 18-34s Still Lag
October 12, 2007 at 12:52 PM (PT)
If there could be an overriding theme to ARBITRON's monthly PPM update conference call that concluded earlier TODAY, it's that the ratings service is firmly on top of things. Cognizant of its oft-reported in-tab problems and underwhelming 18-34 response numbers, ARBITRON executives used this conference call to assure all listening that they're working on solutions to the major issues to minimize their impact in current PPM markets, as well as markets in the PPM pipeline.
However, judging by the stark difference in in-tab response rates between the 18-34s and almost everything else, it remains to be seen just when the still-underperforming in-tab results in that demo will reach a more acceptable figure.
In-Tab Data: Mixed Bag
The call began with SVP/CFO BOB PATCHEN offering recent data that showed HOUSTON daily in-tab down from its target for the most recent week calculated week the entire month of SEPTEMBER. PHILADELPHIA, on the other hand, saw improved responses for the most recent week. PATCHEN made a point of noting that even in areas where they're not hitting their target, "progress is being made" to rectify that by "increasing cash incentives and staff.
The 18-24 numbers in the last week of PHILADELPHIA (65% of target) are the best we've seen.. We're encouraged that the additional ... steps we've taken to reach the 18-24s have been paying off."
New Market, Same Problem
ARBITRON SVP/Ratings Services JAY GUYTHER then discussed ARBITRON's efforts in the NEW YORK CITY market. The in-tab data presented showed that almost all the in-tab response goals have been met, with a notable exception -- 18-34s. For example while ARBITRON reached anywhere from 96%-107% of their in-tab goal NEW YORK CITY, NASSAU-SUFFOLK and MIDDLESEX on SEPT. 21st, they reached only 62% of the 18-34 goal. Breaking the three sub-markets out, all the other demos ranged from 87% of goal to over 100% (all considered acceptable to ARBITRON): Only 62%, 68% and 55% of the 18-34 goals were met.
Since 18-34 has been a longstanding response problem in the diaries, ALL ACCESS asked if ARBITRON is coming up with any other ways to raise those numbers outside of raising cash incentives. PATCHEN answered that "We've been testing cash incentives for 35 years and have found that nothing works better. We would love to find other solutions, but since cash works well to improve the survey, it will continues to be the lead effort."
Just what is the going rate? Proprietary information, but PATCHEN did note that "for 18-24s and 18-34s over the course of a year, we need to report [the amounts] to the Department of Social Security. So it's not trivial. Another thing to consider is that we don't want to give them so much money as to have an impact on their lifestyle."
PATCHEN did point out others ways to increase 18-34 response in women. "We're providing carry aids for younger women, [which can give them] a choice of ways to wear meter. There's also a choice in what the meter can look like to suit their individualized tastes. We're giving people more options in colors and styles."
ARBITRON is also doing in-person coaching visits, which has helped raise response rates in the short term, but they don't know how well that improvement will hold up over time.
SVP Marketing BILL ROSE briefly mentioned the sample guarantee, which becomes effective with the OCTOBER survey, and the ad campaign to convince the advertising community that 70 PPM points equals 100 diary points, but possibly the most intriguing part of his presentation was a recommendation from the ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL to narrow the sample guarantee target from 6+ to 18-54, which has been the diary currency.
The COUNCIL, ROSE said, believes such a move would make the PPM data "more meaningful." He wouldn't definitively commit ARBITRON to the change, instead noting that the ratings firm is "working through it" and would have "details" in their response by the OCTOBER survey call.
ARBITRON ADVISORY COUNCIL Chairman, and COX/GREENVILLE, SC Market Manager STEVE SINICROPI told ALL ACCESS, "We had 146 people on the call today so I am glad that there was a lot interest. Moving these meetings to a couple of days after the data is released is good -- it allows folks to analyze it -- and the COUNCIL continues to discuss sample target guarantees with ARBITRON, and we are looking forward to the next call when ARBITRON discusses specifics of their target sample guarantee."