Much developing market rating point rationale

Dave KirkwoodDirector of Sales and MarketingMuchMusic, TorontoQ. How, from a marketing perspective, are you preparing yourself for the arrival of new specialty services?A. If there are going to be a lot more specialty channels, we're going to need further justification for...

Dave Kirkwood

Director of Sales and Marketing

MuchMusic, Toronto

Q. How, from a marketing perspective, are you preparing yourself for the arrival of new specialty services?

A. If there are going to be a lot more specialty channels, we’re going to need further justification for delivery, not just as an appropriate environment, but some kind of quantitative measure of audience delivery.

Many advertisers are focussing on individual markets. In the past, specialty channels have been able to sell themselves on their environment, their full coverage delivery.

Market delivery

That still has a place, but to reach more advertisers successfully, market delivery matters. We’re working on a market rating point rationale for advertisers, using existing people meter information and software developed by Specialty Data Systems.

As far as our viewers are concerned, we recognize that MuchMusic is a convenience tune – a service which people tune to when they’re not watching something else.

But this year, there has been major growth in appointment tuning. We have 21 specialty shows that focus on specific kinds of music or interests. So we recognize that there will always be a convenience tune base, but are encouraging the growth of appointment tuning.

New rotation

One thing that has helped is that our rotation format changed in September such that anything that’s on now will be on again in exactly eight hours.

There’s also more Monday to Friday programming. Rather than have a different specialty program on every day, we’ve scheduled more programs that run throughout the week.

People can, if not build their lives around the schedule, know that at least it has a greater degree of predictability.

Q. What are you doing to make your brand stand out from the competition?

A. First of all, we are an applicant for two new music services, a middle-of-the-road service called M3 – Much More Music – and a country channel. And if, or when, we get those licences, that will help us in our branding efforts.

It’s pretty clear that if we have a middle-of-the-road channel, such as they have in the u.s., it makes it easier to program and target. There’s very little overlap in videos in the two services in the u.s. And there would be very little on ours.

We are currently a 12-to-34 channel. We could skew that a little more 12-24, while M3 would skew mainly to viewers 25-54.

I leave programming decisions to people in programming, but to give you an example, we could make the decision to never play [middle-of-the-road singer] Michael Bolton on MuchMusic again.

It makes it easier for our viewers to make their viewing choices and our advertisers would be provided a cleaner target.

Q. How are you communicating your brand identity to your viewers?

A. Our channel is such that it has a really broad weekly reach. Our average audience isn’t humongous, but a lot of people come through us every week. Six million is an average weekly reach.

Most effective way

They are constantly surfing through or coming in and staying for a while, so the use of our own network is probably our most effective way of getting that across.

The major specials we promote in tv guides and weeklies. And within those specials, we promote our other weekly programs.

Getting schedules into the hands of viewers is also part of it. And our experience has shown, that when we have something that’s hot, like Ren and Stimpy, it doesn’t take long for our viewers to find it.

Q. How are you communicating your brand identity to media buyers and advertisers?

A. We have a regular newsletter that goes out, called ‘Propaganda,’ and noisy sales reps, that’s about all.

Sales promotions

We do more sales promotions than any other network, so there’s daily communication with our clients – advertisers and their agencies.

Specialty channels have had more direct contact with advertisers than other networks, and that’s not to the exclusion of the agencies, it’s mainly because of the value-added things we do.

Q. What new marketing tools are you using to help in your branding efforts?

A. A lot of our brand identity has to do with Speaker’s Corner.

It’s a program that’s strong now, but it’s going to get stronger. We now have a mobile speaker’s corner in addition to the permanent one at Queen and John (streets), and several portable units that go across the country. And although I can’t say where, it’s likely to be in a major retail chain soon.

Communication

We also have exciting ways of processing that material – taking tapes and putting them on our video request show. We have 800 phone lines open sometimes, we encourage viewer mail, so there’s a lot of communication that way.

We’re taking public access to the airwaves to its extreme.

One of our strongest efforts is in special events. This year our March Break will be at [b.c. ski resort] Whistler.

We’ve got several advertisers involved as sponsors. Our on-air sponsors will have presence in our printed material, they’ll have banners on-site, and they’ll have sampling opportunities in an environment that is good for both our images.

Last year’s Canadian Music Video Awards is a perfect example of the kind of thing we’re doing. People could write in, phone in, fax in their votes. We also set up voting stations at Pepsi Taste Patrol Booths. People could watch a video of the nominees, then place their votes.

Viewer first

Where we’re careful in getting involved in these things, is serving the viewer first. There’s a natural temptation, from an advertiser’s perspective, to serve its immediate needs by telling a retail chain, ‘We’re doing a national promotion,’ in the hope of grabbing some shelf space, without concern for a product’s longer-term image.

If we are to our viewers a critical source of their cultural information, we have to guard that responsibility very closely. We have to ask ourselves if this is in MuchMusic’s long-term best interest and not sell out for the short-term dollar that it brings the network.

We are judged by our viewers and advertisers, and if we participated in promotions that were gratuitous, we’d lose credibility in the eyes of our viewers, which, especially for that demographic, would be a disaster. And our advertisers would lose respect, too.

It would set a precedent that would be difficult to change.