Opinion: New year brings developments in radio

David Bray is senior vice-president of RadioWorks, a full-service radio advertising agency. He also served as chairman of the bbm survey task force responsible for developing new survey methodologies. Bray can be reached at (416) 469-4645; fax (416) 469-4798; or e-mail...

David Bray is senior vice-president of RadioWorks, a full-service radio advertising agency. He also served as chairman of the bbm survey task force responsible for developing new survey methodologies. Bray can be reached at (416) 469-4645; fax (416) 469-4798; or e-mail dhb@passport.ca

In the thick of a struggle to prosper, radio personnel continue to seek ammunition for their marketing battles.

Radio measurement has, over the past year, made great strides with the inclusion of qualitative/ product usage data.

The latest book (Fall 1996 bbm, released in December) further contemporizes its outlook by incorporating computer-related questions. Featured are figures on Internet usage/access, computer ownership and peripherals, such as cd-rom drives and modems.

The continual refinement of questions, while maintaining the book-to-book continuity of mainstream categories (enabling trending), should ensure the practicality of the data.

Broad demographics were insufficient for conveying the marketing viability of the medium’s targeted nature. Radio now offers accountability in terms of product category criteria. The challenge for broadcasters is to market themselves and their revitalized product to advertisers and agency personnel.

Clients are demanding better definition of their target markets and more effective, results-oriented media spending. This will ultimately push the more conservative agencies to shed a bulk buying, cost-per-point mindset.

The new year brings a host of further developments. Continuous measurement (two weeks a month) will undoubtedly alter the way stations promote themselves. It will become financially impractical for stations to execute huge ratings promotion campaigns throughout the year.

In the past, ratings period meant putting out a burst of energy. This more subdued but consistent approach may well lead to a truer picture of ongoing tuning. It will no longer be possible to secure a good book by giving away spectacular prizes or buying every billboard in town.

With continuous measurement also comes monthly trend reports based on four-month rolling averages. This will allow both programmers and buyers a more fluid picture of market shifts and trends.

Ultimately, this is far more accurate for an ever-changing medium such as radio. Fall of 1997 will see the beginning of detailed retail return to sample surveys in Toronto and Vancouver. Measurement will be rolled over fall and the subsequent spring.

Clearly we have the ammunition. Now comes the war.