October 6, 2015
In the never-ending battle between perception and reality, Cumulus-Westwood One CMO Pierre Bouvard embraces the latter that, ironically enough, presents the most difficult challenge. In this case, Bouvard's goal is to persuade advertisers (and in some cases, radio itself) to accept the reality of radio's true reach and sales clout - and to dispel any and all perceptions otherwise. Here, he discusses that challenge, as well as offer his Arbiton experience and insight into the PPM/Voltair conundrum.
You went from working at the radio industry's listener monitoring service to a company that's a customer of that service. How does your knowledge of Arbitron-Nielsen impact your duties at Cumulus/Westwood One?
I also spent about four years working at TiVo, building advanced analytic tools for TV advertisers, but to your question, we are living in a data-driven world today. Marketers want proof that their media investments create results; they want proof that their investments improve their brands' health. The fact that I used to work for Arbitron -- and now I have their entire team of experts as my colleagues -- is spectacular. For example, Nielsen just appointed Tony Hereau, whose full-time job is to generate insights to help sell the value of radio; that's his full-time job! As you can imagine, I'm pretty excited about that; whatever he creates or comes up with will be for the entire radio industry's benefit. He'll also seek input and advice from our industry on what our needs are, which will be very beneficial. I know the resources available at Nielsen and how they can help the radio industry further its cause and tell a better story - and do it in a better way.
You were at Arbitron during the development of the PPM. Knowing what you know from the inside, do you feel the PPM is solid technology as it is, or does it need some tweaking?
Having spent four years at TiVo, I also came to understand measurement in TV. The one conclusion I came to is that radio is quite fortunate to have PPM, because radio has the finest persons-based electronic measurement system in the world. Let's take Milwaukee as a PPM market where radio gets personal data on all those who have the meters. In comparison, look at how Nielsen measures TV in Milwaukee. You have 1960s-era set top meters that only tell you if the TV is on or off and what channel it's on -- and Nielsen is still using paper diaries to attribute demos. Now Nielsen got rid of the paper diaries and came up with a modeling technique that takes customer data to estimate demos.
So what would you want -- real portable actual measurement or old-fashioned set meters with some algorithm that estimates demos? I'll take PPM any day. And when look at other media - from the magazine industry to the fraud-laden world of digital - I think we're very fortunate to have the world's best audience measurement system in our industry.
Now is it perfect? No, they're always making things better, and I'm very encouraged by the new enhanced encoding system Nielsen will be rolling out for PPM. I'm excited about SDK, their new system for better measuring of online audio streams, which is being tested with thousands of stations, and the new encoding monitor that will be put into stations next year. It's always about continuous improvement, and as someone who has seen how measurement is done in other industries, I know we are in much better place vs. other media.
You just used the phrase, "fraud-laden" to describe digital audio measurement. In what ways is it fraud-laden?
Digital advertising is facing large scrutiny right now for advertising fraud, or the practice of having robots view ads and count as impressions. Check out this big investigation Bloomberg Business did recently on ad fraud. Media organizations like the IAB are working to stop this, and as a media organization we support this. Digital is just still in its early days of measurement standards.
In your mind, should the PPM sample sizes be bigger ... and if so, by how much?
There's no question that bigger samples are always better. I do think introduction of the SDK, as a solution for streaming, is going to be significant because the SDK solution is a census measurement for streaming. It's not a sample; it's literally capturing every occasion your stream is tuned into. It doesn't get any better than that in terms of sample size.
Now for regular over-the-air PPM measurements, there's no question it would be great to have more sample, but I don't think any broadcaster is ready to sign up for what that would cost. There's always a balance between sample desires and fiscal prudence.
However, let's go back to Milwaukee, and those poor TV broadcasters using the 1960s set top meters and algorithms to try to estimate demos. What if the local TV stations went to PPM? PPM is already in the markets where you have to fill out more DMA. Imagine having two media contributing their samples to PPM; you get a bigger combined sample for both parties. With the flip of a switch, the TV industry could come into our PPM waters, and we dramatically grow the sample. Not to mention the other benefits you get from having two of the most powerful branding media working together, such as cross-media studies and all sorts of listener/viewer information.
How do you assess Voltair's impact, not only as a separate technology, but in seemingly provoking Nielsen to do more or work faster to improve the PPM's encoding?
Voltair is messing with the encoding of our currency, which is never a good thing. Advertisers are concerned that there's no consistency in encoding. Some stations have one level of encoding, while other stations have another? That's no way to run a ratings service. There should be a level playing field. The agencies should know every station is encoded consistently in the same manner.
That being said, innovation always seems to come from the outside. This company, to their credit, created a new model to help people understand density of encoding, insuring that the encoding is strong enough to capture credit.
When I worked at Arbitron, we were always enhancing algorithms and testing, looking for better ways to improve encoding. Nielsen has been working on the new enhancements in encoding for years; these things take time. But when it comes to innovation, I can definitely say that new ideas from the outside create better services.
In one of your studies, you've shown that radio still has the largest reach and most receptive recall to the audience. Radio has been touting its reach for years, yet it seems to not impress the advertising community. Why is that?
We, as an industry, are superb at helping grow our advertisers' business, yet we are miserable at touting our own virtues. The notion that "we have been saying this for years" is not true. Maybe we've been saying it to ourselves. Have we said it in Adweek or Advertising Age, or to the Association for National Advertisers? No. Why not? Again, it goes back to us being great at talking about radio's power to ourselves, but not so great at telling our stories to advertisers and agencies.
One good way to evaluate how well our messages are being heard is to measure their perception. For instance, an Oldies station should know how to attain a strong image for Oldies. How do you judge that? By how well the marketing is working. Westwood One commissioned a study with a company called Advertiser Perceptions, the gold standard for advertiser sentiment. We asked a simple question: "What percentage of Americans are reached by radio?" Advertisers and the agencies said 65% -- but the truth is 93%! That tells me we have work to do. We need to do a better job to tell our story more cleverly, in a more charming way, and we should spend more money doing so. The same advice we give to advertisers, we have to give to ourselves.
How long does radio have to promote itself to generate its desired impact on advertisers?
One of greatest books on marketing ever written is Jack Trout and Al Ries' "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing." One of key tenets of marketing is that marketing effect takes place over an extended period of time. I like to say that perceptions are like glaciers; they're slow to form and slow to melt. We're not going to melt this glacier overnight, but we have to start.
Meanwhile, it seems that advertisers habitually migrate to the shiny new toys, most recently being found on the digital platform. Can you envision radio reinventing itself to become a shiny new toy, too?
We actually have the shiniest new toy that no one's ever heard of. It's called NEXTRADIO! NextRadio is not only a shiny new toy, but probably the most revolutionary innovation for AM/FM radio of the last 20 years. The concept of creating an app to activate FM receivers on smartphones is a stroke of Jeff Smulyan genius. I am able to slide an AT&T mobile phone across a table to someone, tell him or her to go play with the NextRadio app, then watch what happens when an Allstate ad comes on ... a pop-up shows up and lets you interact with it to find your local agent. Not only is that truly awesome and shiny, but substantive. It makes radio interactive. Talk about marketing! If we, as an industry, put our force and might into NextRadio, it would be spectacular! American radio has a sexy, shiny new mobile toy and it's called NextRadio!
What's your take on how radio has promoted NextRadio so far?
The industry has done a great job in airing ads that promote NextRadio to consumers, because once they see it on someone else's phone, they become enthralled and start contacting their carriers. That's why T-Mobile came on board after AT&T started with it. This is not the time to declare victory, because there are still others such as Verizon and the iPhone we have to convince, but we're in such a better place at this point versus a year ago. We have to keep at it, so while we keep working on the Verizons, we have to start telling NextRadio's story to advertisers -- and the way we excite advertisers is with data. One of most powerful reasons the national advertisers come to TV is through set top data and the fact that millions of set-top boxes provide census-style, second-by-second data on TV tuning. NextRadio provides our industry with our own set-top data, which monitors each person, their tuning behaviors, and their interactions with advertisers' content. NextRadio opens up incredibly valuable data we've never had before.
Engagement: Your studies have shown that radio advertising apparently worked for Amazon on its Prime Day sales event. You've done your best to alert your radio partners and the advertising community about this. How much of that will that sink into their consciousness, or is more persuasion needed?
There's nothing like hard ROI and sales impact to get an advertiser's attention, so the more sales lift and ROI studies that we as an industry can generate, the better. At the NAB, Nielsen unveiled four new department store ROI studies that showed that for every dollar of radio advertising, department stores generated $17 of sales! A 17-to-1 ROI? That's huge. There is not a marketer I meet with where the topic of data, analytics, and ROI does not quickly come up. The key message of the Amazon Prime Day study, fielded by Westwood One, is that between online, TV, and radio, radio did the best job converting ad awareness into sales -- better than online and better than TV. That prompted Forbes to write an article on radio being "the most powerful medium you've never heard of."
There has also been a perception or image that radio is viewed less favorably by millennials and those younger. What's the reality?
Nielsen says that among 18-34s, TV's reach is 76%, while radio's reach is 93%. We dominate TV 18-34. The fact is that radio doesn't have a millennial problem; it's still #1 in reach. Do we need tell that story louder? Absolutely. Are people shocked to learn that one of four 18-34s are not reached by television? You bet. Are people surprised that America's #1 mass reach mobile media is radio? Yes.
You used the "image problem." I would take issue with that term. It's not that we have bad images with many large brand advertisers; it's that we have no images. TV has an erosion image; print has a "falling off a cliff" image; digital has a "fraud/bad ROI" image. We need to establish ourselves; that's our opportunity. We have to create images -- I'd much rather be in that position than having someone else create an image for us.
How does radio create the images that resonate with advertisers? Through content? Through their high-profile personalities?
One thing TV does well is they're really good at promoting their own networks and shows. Every network has sacrosanct promotion minutes in every hour, where they tell their own stories and promote their shows. On a minute-by-minute comparison, we do not, as an industry, devote nearly as much time to promoting ourselves as TV. And that matters.
We have yet to take our own advice and tell our own story consistently. We need a different mindset. We think our airwaves are only for our listeners, but in reality our airwaves reached our listeners and advertisers. Why not use our very own airwaves to promote the attributes we want advertisers to know? We have these amazing personalities who are funny and entertaining; why not leverage their creativity to tell advertisers the story of radio -- the 93% reach story, the ROI story -- in a charming and authentic way? That would be a good way to start melting the glacier. That way, when you go out and make sales calls, there's a chance the clients would say, "Your morning show was so funny talking about your 93% reach" -- that could work. We shouldn't be so shy; we should use our airwaves more to promote our industry to clients and prospects.
You did a study on podcasting, which found its primary appeal to young, millennials -- a demo less impacted by radio, compared to older segments of the audience. Do you see podcasting as a way to bring them back into radio, or should it be treated as a separate entity from radio?
You just saw Scripps make a big investment in podcasting, soon after Hubbard did with PodcastOne. They didn't do that just for the promotion, but because it's a new business opportunity. Podcasting is a new content medium, a new ad form, and the early indications from advertisers is that the results are stupendous because of the personalities' endorsements through live reads. The content is spoken word but it's personal in that the people took the trouble to download it, so they're automatically interested in whatever it is the podcast creator is promoting. We're witnessing the birth of an exciting new audio advertising medium.
Finally, what future goals do you have for yourself?
My goals are to support the 1,400 ad sellers at Westwood One and Cumulus. I want to help them convert insights into sales. So I'm very focused on providing them with the right data that will help them break new categories, bring in new business, and grow revenue.