Time for radio to settle the score

One of the requests advertisers and agencies made of comercial radio last week at the Radio Advertising Bureau conference was for more post-campaign reporting of the medium. The Association of Independent Radio Companies assured delegates that a Industry Accountability Group was being set up.

However the need for accountability in radio takes two forms. As well as post-campaign reporting, agencies want to know what level of demand there is for a station’s airtime so they can judge how fair its prices are.

At the moment there is no way for an agency buyer to know if a radio statio is really selling out of airtime when it puts up its prices.

But by the end of the year the Radio Advertising Bureau will have monthly data to distribute to agencies on how many advertising minutes any station sold in the morning breakfast and afternoon drivetime periods.

Disclosure of minutes sold will allow agencies to justify their buying to their clients says David Fletcher head of radio at CIA Medianetwork. “With inflation in the TV marketplace we can stand up in front of the client and say this is what the market is doing, and I’m doing good, bad or indifferently against the market,” he says.

However Fletcher does not believe that the proposals go far enough. He, along with the Association of Media Companies, AMCO, would like to see detailed data about minutage sold in the drivetimes, but also as a further benchmark a broader trend figure illustrating the station’s whole week’s minutage.

Stan Park, managing director at Independent Radio Sales, agrees that drivetime information may be meaningless: “Virtually every station will be 100 per cent sold in drive time which will give no indication of demand. And no station is going to give out its revenue figures so agencies won’t be able to work out a station average price.”

The second component of accountability, post-campaign analysis is easier to achieve and stations are closer to providing it than demand information.

Classic FM and Virgin have already announced that they will automatically supply agencies with data on a campaign’s actual spot times, impacts, coverage and frequency.

Post-campaign analysis is also being developed by the national sales houses which have more complex radio station traffic management systems to integrate with their planning systems.

Media Sales and Marketing is investing 300,000 in a Telmar system that it hopes to have running by the end of the year, while Scottish and Irish Radio Sales is funding a new IMS system.

“We are all working along the same lines,” says David Goode, chairman of SIRS. “There is likely to be industry-wide post-campaign data available by spring of next year. The national stations have been able to launch theirs first because of the single source of their data. The sales houses have problems because the different timings of broadcasts on split AM and FM stations and getting varied traffic systems linked to the planning systems.”

The drive for increased accountability is being driven by inflation in the radio, running at around 14 per cent during the first half of 1995.

“Advertisers on radio are likely to suffer a third consecutive year of radio inflation at around twice the level of media inflation generally,” says Jerry Fielder, media director of Leagas Delaney. “For the first two years clients have understood about the investment in programming and the growth in the industry. But when inflation continues for a third year it has to find a way of justifying that.”

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