February 14, 2012
Successful marketing is essential to any company's success, let alone radio. Yet with the advent of the PPM and the rush towards digital platforms, some believe that the keys to successful radio marketing may have changed. One person who deals with this challenge on a daily basis is Katz Marketing Solutions Pres. Bob McCurdy, whose 32-year career offers him a seasoned perspective of marketing success - past, present, and future. Here's how he sees it ...and sells it.
Before we get into Katz, let's touch upon your basketball career. In college, you played in the ACC against the likes of North Carolina and Duke. What was it like playing against Dean Smith at North Carolina and Coach K at Duke and the "Cameron Crazies"? Did you try out for the pros?
When I was playing college ball, Dean Smith had only been in Carolina for a couple of years, and it was prior to Coach K at Duke, so it wasn't that difficult to win at Cameron. We won a game or two there and it was a lot of fun being on great teams. Regarding the NBA, it wasn't what it is now. The contract they sent me was for $35,000 a year, which was the bare minimum back in those days. Unfortunately, after I was drafted, I had to be put into a hip cast for two months for an Achilles tendon problem that did not heal, so that was the end of that. I had to get serious about life.
Once you realized basketball wasn't a career for you, how and why did you decide on marketing/business?
My plan was to be a high school basketball coach and an English teacher. I was heavily influenced by UCLA coach John Wooden, who originally was an English teacher and coach. But when my basketball career was over, I started wondering what to do. I thought about going into insurance or real estate and I had actually been offered a chance to be a sports broadcaster on TV.
To this day, I can still remember a conversation I had with my father, who looked at me and asked if I ever considered giving radio sales a shot. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had never heard of radio sales. Thankfully, he said that he had a couple of clients who were doing radio advertising who were pretty sharp and making good money. So I went and checked it out.
Eventually you got a job with Katz and Clear Channel. How did you segue from sales to marketing?
I had been at Katz 20 years prior to Clear Channel purchasing the company. It became part of CCRS. I loved working with everybody at Clear Channel, with John Hogan and Charlie Rahilly. The whole team is terrific and I had a great time. About three years ago, my old boss, Stu Olds, said "We need you to do marketing," as he felt there was a need for me in that division. It's been great to be part of Mark Gray's team, as well as working with the rest of his crew for the past several years.
What did you bring to Katz's table that they weren't doing?
I probably brought a larger picture perspective as to what we needed to do to raise the visibility of the industry at key decision-making levels. When I was at CCRS, I worked with Jeff Howard who was so talented that he gave me the opportunity to focus outwardly on the agencies and advertisers. I spent a lot of time with clients and the media, going to the 4As and ARF. I recognized quickly that the industry needed to raise its visibility at all levels. There's an old saying that being absent is always wrong - and radio had been absent at key decision levels. I was committed to making sure radio was no longer "absent."
What are the most challenging issues facing radio in terms of marketing?
That's pretty easy to say -- it's the perception where everybody on the agency and advertiser side thinks they're an expert on radio, but they really aren't. There's a misconception among agencies and advertisers today that radio is the same medium it was in '70s, '80s and '90s. Our job is to go out and show them what radio is capable of executing today with all of its digital assets. We need to show them that this is a really evolving medium that's extremely dynamic and is no longer one-dimensional.
Unfortunately, many agencies are in search of the latest and shiniest, so they inherently think of digital and online. We need to show them that radio stations can be on the cutting edge of marketing because they can do everything online that most digital entities can do and more, via local feet-on-the-street local execution.
So how does one break through that misperception?
With facts, conviction and a lot of effort. We subscribe to the Channel Planning tool called Chorus, which ranks 58 different mediums in terms of the ability to meet advertiser goals. And inevitably, radio ranks near the top in delivering the most client goals. This is a huge point. No other medium came close to providing this. If they want personal recommendations, we have them with our DJs, who are experts at endorsements. If they want an experiential event or sampling opportunity, stations can execute that in a heartbeat. They want online streaming or online coverage? We've got that covered, too. Radio is really six mediums in one -- and no other medium can say that.
Outside of presenting such facts, how else can radio change the agency/advertising mindset?
I don't think anybody can change anyone else's mind overnight. You can only change minds over time and it's best if they change their own minds. We have to be like dripping water -- just constantly in front of the key decision-makers, constantly providing them with additional reasons why radio can positively support and impact their clients or business. At some point, these guys will call and give us a shot. We've had some nice breakthroughs that way. As the saying goes, "Good selling is never wasted," even when they initially say no. You just keep selling and do so in a professional manner. You earn a seat at their table by being knowledgeable, professional and providing value with every interaction.
Have the ingredients that comprise successful marketing vs. unsuccessful marketing changed over the years?
I don't think so. Some people might look at what and how they're selling on the Internet today and say that it's different, but I don't think that it's fundamentally different at all. You still have to promote the right offer and get a message out that's engaging and relevant, which causes the consumer to take some kind of action. Streaming video is just TV with a smaller audience; social media is nothing more than glorified word-of-mouth. They may be new media, but the fundamentals of marketing success really haven't changed at all.
How has the advent of PPM (and its incidental listening monitoring) impact how you market radio stations?
Radio still has powerful AQH and PURs, as well as terrific cume. In fact, the cume of radio reaches a higher percentage of the population today than it did in 1970. Contrast that to print, which is down 50% in the last 25 years. The PPM is very valuable methodology, but it really hasn't changed the way you market. You just can reach more people to sell your product with incredible market penetration that enables advertisers to "skim" those prospects that happen to be in the market at the time of exposure. You've still got to put together a proper schedule that delivers sufficient frequency. It's not an either/or thing. Radio delivers terrific frequency and terrific reach, but in fact it did that prior to PPM.
In a recent column, you wrote about the plethora of negative political advertising -- which in the Republican primary, seems to have worked for Romney against Gingrich. Would you advise clients to adopt a more negative angle vs. their competitors in their advertising? Why or why not?
It works politically but what it also does, as noted in a number of studies, is lead to lower voter turnout. It's not a projectable ad tactic outside of the political battleground, as no advertiser would want to turn off people enough to lower demand for their product. I don't think any nonpolitical advertiser would want to generate that kind of reaction.
Katz recently subscribed to USA TouchPoints research. How do you plan on integrating its data into Katz's offerings?
We're going to use it on every presentation. It's extremely compelling research that not only gives you a feel for the prospective power of each individual medium, but it also lets you know what the person is feeling and doing when consuming that medium. It gives you a terrific contextual overview of what messaging resonates better with those folks and what their mindset would be at the time of exposure. As far as we've seen, no other research can present that kind of data to the advertiser or our sales staff. It enables us to engage advertisers at an elevated level. And it's a powerful tool to which many major agencies also subscribe.
What's the most common mistake radio stations make in marketing?
Maybe that the industry needs to promote itself a bit better. It's okay to go door-to-door, agency-to-agency but as an industry, we need to collectively figure how to maintain a consistent presence with not only the key decision-makers we come into contact with, but also with those we haven't. This type of effort would provide some nice air cover for sales staffs as we go out and penetrate advertisers and agencies and tell the radio story.
The overall sophistication of the average radio salesperson could probably be enhanced as well. I read something the other day where 30 years ago there were only seven media options. Now there are over 100. It's an extremely complex, sophisticated environment. We, as radio salespeople, need to be marketing experts not only of our medium, but of the other media out there. We're not competing in a vacuum.
I'm sure you seen radio stations that have smaller and smaller promotion and marketing budgets. What's the best ways to do marketing on the cheap?
You've got e-blasts and YouTube, for starters, then you can add tweets to the mix. There are a number of different ways marketing can be done on the cheap -- just to keep some presence.
Regarding Twitter, about 2% of the U.S. tweets every day so it is important to keep some of the social options' popularity in perspective. The USA TouchPoints data has shown us that radio's reach is three to four times larger than all the other social options combined. It's our job is to make sure that we get advertisers and agencies to keep things balanced and objective in their media selection to avoid an unrealistic digital slant.
How does one measure success of a marketing campaign - strictly by sales of the client's product/service ... or by branding of same?
I don't think there's just one way to measure success. Each campaign has its own goals. One could be sales, another could be branding, and another could be awareness. Each campaign has its own definition of success. However, we started working with Ipsos/OTX about 18 months ago, which enables us to become better partners with advertisers by providing empirical data that substantiates that their radio campaign delivered quantifiable results in terms of the five branding metrics: awareness, intent, consideration, advocacy and affinity. We're also able to provide feedback regarding their creative that enables them to refine it to enhance its effectiveness.
We are the only medium doing this on an advertiser-by-advertiser basis. These studies have enabled us to develop deeper relationships with key advertisers while providing them with proof that the medium does substantially enhance any multi-media campaign. This type of research is no longer optional but required.
How should radio stations monitor and prepare for the future, in terms of crafting successful marketing strategy?
The marketing future is going to be about accountability. You can't lose sight of that. We've got to continue to look for creative ways to produce results. Programming to the PPM and just running a schedule correctly is no longer enough. We've got to get out of our comfort zone and re-examine who we are and what we do for our clients. We have to make sure our content remains compelling and is available wherever the consumer is.
Radio has a terrific advantage in being so personal. Other mediums have a difficult time matching the personalization that radio offers. We also have a huge advantage of being local while providing massive national reach. Ultimately, all products are sold locally and radio has the ability -- via Katz and local radio stations -- to really execute exciting and powerful concepts that moves product. Whichever media offers the best tactical solution to marketers will win. If we keep innovating and executing, we'll be just fine.