May 17, 2011
Apparently, being the leader of the company that has its finger on the pulse of radio advertising isn't enough for Mark Gray. Due to the emergence of the PPM and the growth of multiple platforms to sell and market radio, Gray has also assumed oversight of Katz Marketing Solutions. His goal: Not just to help foster more radio ad revenue, but to better spotlight its potency and relevance in the multimedia landscape. Here's how he's doing it.
EMail: Mark Gray
How have your job responsibilities changed since adding Katz Marketing Solutions to your purview?
I've been President of Katz Radio Group since 2006. I recently picked up additional responsibility for Katz Marketing Solutions, the marketing arm of our company. My primary focus hasn't changed, which is to ensure that we provide great representation to broadcast groups around the country. We do so by making sure we have the best people and technical support in place to serve our customers. Now, with the additional responsibility of Katz Marketing Solutions, I'm also focusing on developing more dollars for radio and cultivating a stronger voice to advocate for our medium.
As a company whose goal is attracting more advertisers to radio, what are the biggest challenges you face in doing that?
The most common one is the misperception of radio's relevancy. Radio's been challenged in recent years as we let some folks out-position us and we didn't fight back strongly enough. We need to do a better job of telling radio's story and demonstrating how our medium fits into the advertising landscape. There are so many great success stories about radio that aren't being told. We have to tell a better story by using research, especially when it comes to the youth market and music discovery. People are challenging the value of radio all the time. But there's plenty of information that counters these misperceptions. Radio's total reach has never been stronger, and the amount of time people spend with the medium is rock solid.
Yet just how effective is data in changing perceptions?
It's very effective, but it's always a challenge to change people's minds. It takes time. One of the things we've done is bring in Mary Beth Garber, who will play a pivotal role in our efforts to change those misperceptions by collecting and generating data and research to promote radio. We also make sure we have great tools available for our sales team so they have the resources they need to tell our story. We're making great strides at delivering radio's message at the advertiser level.
In addition, we're dividing our efforts to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. In the short term, we're targeting big advertisers with our Katz Marketing Solutions team. We're establishing very specific research projects for the team in conjunction with a company called OTX, which is helping us account by account, advertiser by advertiser, to build on our efforts. We also spend a great deal of time with Arbitron to make better use of the latest updated research. And we have other plans in place to pursue and expand on our successes. It takes time to change misperceptions and we will continue to advocate on behalf of radio as long as we need to.
You mention Mary Beth Garber, who recently took Sirius XM to task on its perceived stature in the industry. Overall, how much of your efforts will be devoted to talking up radio's real clout ... and how much time will you devote to citing what you believe to be the real weaknesses in rivals such as Sirius and possibly Pandora?
Mary Beth is a respected industry authority and we're very pleased to add her valuable experience and expertise to Katz. Her role is to advocate for radio by collecting the latest research and making it available to our sellers and others in the industry, such as she did with her recent memo about satellite radio. I think the recent data and research that has come forward regarding radio's rivals speaks for itself. And perhaps we shouldn't look at all of them as rivals but as opportunities to expand radio's overall reach. Several recent studies have shown that there's room for digital and streaming radio as complements to traditional radio. Once again, radio's listenership has never been stronger; its weekly reach is higher now than it was 30 years ago.
Are there certain types of research and advertising campaigns that work better for national advertisers than local clients, or vice versa?
Not really, because each advertiser has different needs and goals. Some advertisers prefer very specific campaigns and programs. What we're doing is very strategic and customized for each client. And we're also communicating all the time with all the big broadcast groups on general research to show how we can do a better job integrating with their advertisers.
What's the most persuasive way to attract advertisers -- data on radio's reach and effectiveness, or specific anecdotal success stories from individual station campaigns?
Both can be very effective and persuasive. Of course, we don't share research and strategies of specific advertiser campaigns without first getting permission from the parties involved. We have numerous success stories to use, because nothing but statistics can get stuffy and boring. Normally, with the success stories we do share, we review the ad copy, run through several different pieces of advertising and give feedback in terms of listening to similar spots, discussing what the clients like and what they didn't like. It's a helpful process.
Allstate's advertising agency loved the info we gave it. They've supported radio in a great way and now they're spending more money with us. And with Katz Marketing Solutions, it's almost like introducing radio to advertisers for the first time. For many of the advertisers we target, radio has not been top-of-mind. So we do our best to change their minds with great sales people, great products and great research.
How has digital growth, in terms of selling online and web streams, impacted Katz's business?
We will continue to invest in Katz 360, our digital arm, to fulfill this important segment of the business. Our digital business started more than three years ago and we're going to continue to build on it by selling online streaming and pure plays. It's a great complement to offline radio. We find a lot of advertisers are interested in buying both, but we're very careful not to take away money that's targeted to spot radio. We've done a really good job of attracting additional clients to extend their investment in various radio platforms. We think it's a big growth area.
There are still major broadcasters who don't foresee a decent ROI in digital and online platforms, considering what they have to invest in it to make it work. What do you counsel them to change that perspective?
We do foresee a lot of growth in sales from monetizing brands and extending them across multi-platforms. Mobile, for example, is due for a big expansion. We share with broadcasters the qualitative research that supports our growth expectations and the many success stories we've had.
Are you confident that the spot business will grow at a rate that will satisfy broadcasters?
I absolutely am. The overall growth this year is certainly a bit slower than in 2010, but we're still seeing modest gains. And we're seeing it in a lot of different categories, both locally and nationally.
Auto seems to be the linchpin to any considerable success. Do you agree - and will auto as a category lead to a resurgence in radio revenue?
The short answer is yes, but there's more we can do. Auto is definitely back. We're seeing some good growth, and we're coming off decent growth in the first and second quarter of 2010. We're looking at some very positive money coming in on the national level. The tier 1 corporate auto money is much heavier on TV than radio. We have to work harder to get more of these dollars allocated to radio.
Are there any new categories that can add to radio's coffers in 2011?
I'm not sure if there's an entirely new category, but when you look across the biggest advertisers, you can see some categories really expanding. In auto, we're getting more of the aftermarket advertisers, like O'Reilly's Auto Parts. We're seeing the same thing in the finance and insurance categories. And telecom, in general, is one of our largest categories with the continuous promotions of new products from companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Those folks continue to spend money to promote their latest products and services. Overall, it seems we're spending more time on the expansion of the important categories that we already have.
Political seems to be the gift that keeps on giving these days...
It's true that historically during an off-election year we used to retain a third of the business. That number today is closer to 50%, and it's being driven by issue advertising on the economy, energy and education, which has been terrific for us.
Do you feel that Talk radio's syndicated personalities, who rile up their listeners by regularly making black-and-white observations, help sell the format ... or can they jeopardize advertisers by their more outrageous claims?
One of radio's greatest strengths is engaging personalities who deliver compelling content. There is a great companionship between radio listeners and on-air personalities across the country.
Bottom line: How bullish are you on the rest of 2011 and especially 2012?
Right now I am optimistic, but by no means are we letting our guard down. It's certainly not assumed that it's all blue skies moving forward. We still have a lot of work to do to grow as a medium. While it's a little early to project, the influx of political and an improved economy should lead to a better year in 2012.
And what about you ... do you see your current position at Katz in the long term, or are you seeing your current career at one year at a time?
I absolutely love what I'm doing. I've been with Katz for 23 years and I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm excited about the future of our business and radio's national representation. I hope to spend the rest of my career here.