Arbitron Defends PPM, Acknowledges Industry Confidence Problem

Arbitron says it is going to work more aggressively to educate radio and advertisers about the differences between passive diary measurement and electronic Portable People Meter audience measurement.
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Arbitron says it is going to work more aggressively to educate radio and advertisers about the differences between passive diary measurement and electronic Portable People Meter audience measurement.

This comes shortly after the ratings company announced it was delaying rollout of PPM in nine top markets after broadcasters expressed concern about the validity of the numbers. Some broadcasters are concerned there aren’t enough minorities and people age 18-34 carrying the meters.

Arbitron executive Pierre Bouvard said the company remains confident in the audience estimates it’s producing but acknowledges, “We need to regain the confidence of the industry.”

The company recently announced initiatives underway or being studied to improve the sample. Enhanced sampling rates and increased premiums for PPM wearers to encourage them to wear the meter each day are having an effect, said Bouvard.

He spoke at Thursday’s program consultant meeting at Arbitron in Columbia, Md.

Asked how advertising agencies have reacted to the PPM delay, Bouvard said it’s been an inconvenience for the ad world because many agencies already had their buys put to bed, so the agencies had to go back and re-do their numbers for new radio advertising time purchases.

“We did hear from a major advertiser in the New York market who had expanded their radio ad budget in New York anticipating PPM. They took the extra budget and put it into other media,” said Bouvard. The move from passive diary measurement to real-time electronic measurement should have happened five years ago, ad agencies tell Arbitron, he said. “They’re impatient.”

Some programmers questioned Arbitron about whether the company is making every effort to make samples geographically balanced and not exclude certain Zip codes. “Leaving out ‘guns and pickups’ could affect country format stations,” said one programmer.

Arbitron officials assured attendees the PPM panels are geographically balanced.

One programmer commented to Radio World that anytime something changes in ratings methodology, somebody won’t be happy. Nielsen went through similar growing pains when it switched to electronic television measurement, he said.

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