August 19, 2009

Radio Waves

An article in today's Denver Post reports on the first week of Arbitron ratings based on people meters. If future results follow this week's trend, it will turn the local radio ad business on its ear as the ratings are significantly different from those collected by the traditional diary method.

The theory is that the meters are more accurate because they don't require manual entry from memory by the participant. However, there are technical challenges to capturing the data that make some question its accuracy. And if the participant ever fails to wear or carry the device, it can be less accurate than a diary.

Interestingly, in Denver and other markets, the meters show improved ratings for Spanish-language stations when it has been suspected they under-report ethnic stations. So is the reporting problem only for black audience stations?

The devices also report that people listen for shorter periods of time than previously thought, however the device turns off if a single station is played for more than an hour. Go figure!

All of this is not good news for the radio business. Despite its challenges, print media have a proven, audited method of counting circulation. Yes, they like to claim readership, which is their own made-up estimate of "pass-along," but circulation is a fair method to compare those media and their ad rates. Even online media have more reliable ways to count viewers than broadcast; but whether various forms of online advertising are promotionally effective is unproven.

What radio has done well historically, and needs to do more than ever, is sell on its qualitative benefits -- that it is an effective ad medium because its listenership is segmentable, involved, and hears and responds to advertisers' messages.

Marriott Comes to Its Own Rescue

Marriott International has convinced a franchisee's attorneys to withdraw their offensive defense in the case cited here, and offered an apology.

People Assume

Many liberals assumed Barack Obama was very progressive and would govern from the far left because they interpreted his call to "change" in their own terms. When Obama proves himself to be the pragmatic compromiser (that's what he meant by "change") his words clearly indicated he would be, they feel betrayed.

Many shoppers at Whole Foods assume that because the chain promotes organic, sustainable and local foods, and a lot of the staff looks cool, that its management is politically on the left. The fact that Whole Foods is a capitalist success story, built on aggressive competition and acquisition of every formidable foe, notwithstanding, they feel betrayed when its CEO proves to be an Ayn Rand disciple.

They assume that anyone who adopts the ethic born of the hippie era shares their world view. They are shocked that someone might believe in protecting the environment from a conservative political point of view, or might be "liberal" on one issue and "conservative" on another. Knee-jerk reactions from either end of the spectrum are typical but not helpful.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal opposing Obama's approach to health care reform has angered many of his customers, some of whom are organizing to boycott the store. The fact that he presented the piece under the company banner is either very courageous or very foolish, and it was certain to bring such as reaction, whether fairly or not.

August 13, 2009

Lawyers May Win, Client Already Lost

A woman is raped at gunpoint in the garage of the Stamford, CT Marriott hotel, in front of her children, and sues the hotel for "more than $15,000."

The hotel's response is that in effect, it's the victim's fault, and not theirs:
"(The victim) failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities."
As incendiary as that statement is, it's also possible the hotel is not at fault. The victim claims the attacker had been seen lurking around the hotel. Whether she can prove negligence is an open matter.

However, the legal response to her suit has likely caused this Marriott and the Marriott chain more in lost business than a settlement would have, both because the response will offend many customers, and it caused the unsettling incident itself to be retold in newspapers and online.

There are good reasons why Marriott might not want to settle, but from a public relations POV they should have defended only on the point that the victim can't prove negligence.

August 02, 2009

Brand Name Day

My father was a one-man public relations shop in Manhattan back when that was more common than agencies. He was the first p.r. practitioner to be president of the Advertising Club of New York.

A few times a year he would take me to the Friday Brand Name Day luncheons which he often mc'd, and I was in heaven.

By the time I was in high school, I could join conversations with his fellow members. I had a "Graduate" moments when one of them said I should go into marketing. No, I thought. I want to be a radio d.j.; I'm going to be an artíste!

Whether by birth or observation, I did get the marketing bug. I was publicity director for my college FM station and sold ads on the station that played only to dorms, and I've been a sales and marketing guy ever since.