PPM Update: Accreditation Will Still Happen â?¦ Ditto Commercialization
February 29, 2008 at 10:38 AM (PT)
In its just-concluded monthly PPM press conference call, ARBITRON executives responded to the news that the MRC denied accreditation to its NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA panels by expressing confidence that the actions they’ve taken (and are taking) to improve rates will eventually achieve accreditation—and that the commercialization of the PPM stays on its previous schedule.
Not getting the accreditation, "while disappointing, it’s in no way a disruption of commercialization," President/Operations, Technology And R&D OWEN CHARLEBOIS stated in his opening remarks. "Accreditation is clearly a difficult hurdle, one we’re committed to achieving, but it’s not uncommon not be granted MRC accreditation and still be commercialized. The MRC even says accreditation’s not required to have commercialization, as long as you do three things: 1) Do an independent audit; 2) share the audit’s data with the MRC and clients; and 3) provide a period of pre-currency. ARBITRON adheres to all these steps. Going forward, we will initiate a new audit and accreditation process for PHILADELPHIA and NEW YORK, which we’ll begin very shortly, based on what we believe are significant improvement performance in our panels."
Accreditation is clearly a difficult hurdle, one weâ??re committed to achieving, but itâ??s not uncommon not be granted MRC accreditation and still be commercialized
Why The Sudden Announcement?
While several radio executives (chief among them, COX's BOB NEIL -- see story above) are already up in arms about the rather sudden announcement of the accreditation rejection -- found in an SEC filing at that -- CHARLEBOIS noted that while they first learned about it in JANUARY, "Up until yesterday, the process had not closed," he said. "The MRC board ratified the recommendation from the audit committee in JANUARY, but ARBITRON had right to appeal the decisions. We had a window to make a decision on that. We later informed the MRC that we would not pursue an appeal; we decided to focus our energy on the process moving forward, to focus on the new audits with the new performance and to move through the process that way, rather than focus on trying to go through what probably would have been a lengthy appeal."
The main reasons for ARBITRON's confidence in eventually getting accreditation are twofold: First off, the audit for PHILDELPHIA began in the FALL of '06 and the report was delivered to the MRC board in APRIL of '07. The NEW YORK audit began in the spring of '07 and was delivered in the FALL. Clearly, the problems in response and in-tab were not being aggressively addressed back then as they are now and in the near future.
Trending Higher ... And "Concierge" Service
To buttress their point, ARBITRON showed data that showed significant improvement in most demos in both NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA. DDI benchmarks have been made in all markets 6+. However, specific challenges remain, especially in NASSAU 18-34 and PHILADELPHIA 25-34. That's where ARBITRON will divert much of their energies. SVP/Chief Research Officer BOB PATCHEN cited higher incentives, more stylish accessories and improved packaging as ways to improve the response rate in the poorer responding demos. One new added value inducement is a "concierge" service to engage panelists in terms of sending reminders, offering wake-ups calls and such, which starts in MAY on a trial basis.
The other reason behind ARBITRON's belief that they'll pass muster on a second audit was revealed in their preview of LOS ANGELES, CHICAGO and RIVERSIDE data. Even though they're months away from their projected roll-out, the early data suggests that all three markets are up to benchmark snuff in almost all demos, with 18-34 being the notable exception -- and even there, they're not far off from meeting all benchmarks.
Even though those markets' numbers already rivals the latest data out of PHILADELPHIA, ARBITRON has no plans to try to get accreditation for those markets first and move up the schedule of their rollout.