March 29, 2016
For many people, the idea of "Super Fans" brings back memories of an old Saturday Night Live skit about some inebriated Chicagoans crowing about "Da Bears..." To DMR/Interactive Founder/COO Andrew Curran, reaching out and engaging "Super Fans," the radio listeners who matter the most, through digital and social media marketing, is the key to future success. Here he discusses radio's current business climate and how explains how interactive marketing can enhace a station's bottom line.
What were you doing before DMR/Interactive, and what made you decide to join the company?
It all goes back to when I bought my first radio with allowance money at seven years old. I've always been passionate about radio. After doing play-by-play at my college radio station (WZBC/Boston College), I got the opportunity to work for ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT. There I did everything from writing SportsCenter to booking guests for Jack Arute to editing highlights ... you name it. It was my first job in radio, working from 5p until 2a with great people such as Vince Kates-Paulus and Keith Goralski. When the opportunity came to produce Pat Barry's talk show during afternoon drive on 55KRC (WKRC) in Cincinnati, my hometown, I took it. One of my proudest moments was producing the show during 9/11. After a couple days of all-network coverage, our show was the first local program to return to 55KRC. I remember taking calls and helping people process what was going on. In those early days, we didn't even know who was behind the attacks. The entire experience still reminds me of the power and impact of radio.
I learned a lot from Pat and people such as Darryl Parks and Tony Bender. When the chance to go work for DMR/Interactive popped up, it gave me the opportunity to work with stations and formats across North America. Coming to work with Tripp Eldredge and Catherine Jung was a natural fit.
What were your initial tasks at DMR and how has your job evolved since then?
I worked my way up; I started on our account service team. Along the way I learned each aspect of our business including the opportunity to build our digital and social practice, which brought digital and social advertising to station marketing. A decade later, I had the opportunity to become President at DMR/Interactive. Each day I try to learn, grow and give back.
When you joined DMR in 2004, social media and digital platforms were just starting to flex their muscles, marketing-wise. How have their growth and evolution impacted what you do at DMR?
In 2007, the year the iPhone came out, I don't think anybody including Steve Jobs could have predicted how quickly mobile was going to grow. Here we are less than a decade later with an 80%+ adoption rate of smartphones. Mobile and social media have really fueled the growth of Big Data. Even before mobile and social, back when fax machines were considered cutting edge, data analytics was a term DMR was already using, as we helped clients identify and super-serve the listeners who matter most.
Today, what are the biggest challenges for marketing and analytics in social media and digital?
While listening can come from anywhere, ratings are driven by employed, heavy users of radio, actively participating in the ratings process. These P1 PPM panelists listen to at least an hour of radio a day (100+ quarter-hours for diaries). As a result, although radio is a broadcast medium, its marketing needs to be hyper-targeted. In fact, although people sometimes try and game the system or offer stations a "magic bullet" that targets only the Nielsen households, it's just a gimmick. At the end of the day, nobody except Nielsen knows who these people are.
Our job is to consistently recruit and engage heavy users, those in the target demo and Hot ZIPs who make radio a significant part of their day. Having digital and social media tools, especially mobile devices with them 24/7, allows us to do that in a personalized way. We help clients connect with the best listeners away from the radio, so that when they tune-in, their station is top of mind.
Reaching people off-air seems to be a pretty big challenge...
Getting someone's attention certainly keeps getting harder, especially in an increasingly cluttered media landscape, which makes it all the more important to capture user-level data with each interaction. Admittedly, our job would be much easier if effective marketing was as simple as "set it and forget it," just put up some billboards or have a random video go viral, but in reality those are fleeting impressions primarily being consumed by people who will never participate in the ratings. The unanticipated result ... inefficient and expensive marketing. As stations are forced to do more with less, it's easy to fall victim to false hope and just focus on a cheap CPM.
Do you consider Voltair a gimmick that builds false hopes that stations will get higher numbers and more advertising by using it?
I'm not an engineer, so without getting into the science of it, what Voltair proposes -- and what people are afraid of -- is that there's significant listening that's not being captured ... especially in spoken word formats that have pauses, or formats that play softer music such as Smooth Jazz. For its part, Nielsen has made some adjustments and released Enhanced CBET, but it's a tension that's always going to exist. Nobody ever complains that their own ratings are too high.
How do you measure the success of a social and digital marketing campaign?
Certainly ratings are a part of it ... but it's important to understand the fundamentals behind that ratings success. We help stations foster relationships with their best listeners and "Win the Moment" by consistently being top-of-mind. While it's important to generate short-term ROI, these relationships with the audience are simultaneously helping stations prepare for an increasingly mobile and competitive future that'll be less dependent on AM/FM listening.
Radio's biggest competitive advantage is the relationship it has with the audience. That is what digital start-ups and streaming services are trying to replicate -- that personal connection. Pandora can build a sales force in any given market, but they're not creating a truly local product. That's what advertisers understand; radio rings the cash register. Our best listeners turn on the radio just 31 times a week, while interacting with their smartphones 150 times a day ... more than 1,000 a week. The scarcity and strong relationship with the audience is what allows radio to charge a premium compared to "digital dimes" for online platforms, which can't turn a profit.
What should radio do in that area better?
Radio needs to continue to super-serve its audience. The challenge is that there's more work and less people to do it, which makes knowing your audience by name and identifying those who matter most so important.
When cassettes and CD players came into the car, they weren't collecting personal data, so radio wasn't at a competitive disadvantage. When you're talking about platforms like Spotify and Facebook, collecting individual data and personalizing the experience is their business model, which puts radio at a disadvantage. There are plenty of opportunities for radio to get to know its audience, but many in radio still think in broadcast terms, where the audience is anonymous.
Should the digital/social marketing strategy be the same for one radio group as it is for the others? How uniquely should they be crafted?
Programming consultant Tim Moore was recently talking about focus groups when he said, you can't take insights from one market and use them across multiple markets. Every market has local dynamics that a station has to serve and leverage. It's the same with a social/digital marketing strategy. Every market doesn't have to reinvent the wheel with social and digital, but every station should play to its strengths and know the type of content that resonates with their audience. For some, it might be Facebook; for others it's Twitter or blogs.
What future challenges do you see in digital and social marketing ... and how do you dovetail that with your own future goals?
Disruption always creates opportunity and historically radio is no stranger to facing emerging technologies. Previous leaders in radio have successfully navigated challenges such as TV, the FM dial and deregulation. No reason that current industry leaders will be any different. As I look to the future, radio is the 800-pound gorilla of audio and there have never been so many opportunities for stations to leverage "Super-Fans" and generate word-of-mouth marketing. Using digital and social to empower station amplifiers to promote their favorite station is a huge opportunity that continues to emerge and is an area where resources and investment are continuing to concentrate.
Not too far around the corner are even greater disruptions such as the driverless car. When drivers become passengers, their media consumption habits will change significantly. Radio has a great opportunity to continue to thrive in this environment, but Google and others are not building driverless cars for radio's benefit, so we have to offer a compelling value proposition.
Radio is going to have to compete and innovate, but it all starts with the relationship stations have with their best listeners. The opportunity for radio to leverage data analytics to recruit and engage those who matter most, continues to drive client investment in our Audience Management solution, which unifies, scores and segments station data across platforms.
As we move forward, our team here at DMR/Interactive is dedicated to helping radio evolve and grow. This includes optimizing current marketing tools as well as evaluating, developing and launching new platforms to empower stations to Win the Moment by engaging those who matter most.