Arbitron says it is working on Detroit demo problem


Arbitron officials tell RBR/TVBR they detected problems with the Black 18-34 sample for the Portable People Meter (PPM) panel in Detroit in mid-March and that initiatives are underway to improve performance. But sample improvements do not come overnight. As we reported Friday, the metrics for that demo went from bad to worse in April.

“In March we noticed that several different metros, one of which is Detroit, were trending down” in the Black 18-34 demo, Arbitron Exec. VP/Customer Solutions Bob Hendrick said on Friday. The company then began efforts to improve performance in the demo.

Detroit is a relatively new PPM market, where the new ratings methodology became currency in December. In total, it was oversubscribed in PPM panelists, but the panel was put in place before Arbitron began using its current recruiting initiatives to get better demographic segmentation of panelists. Also, Hendrick noted, people in certain demos tend to stay in PPM panels longer, before they quit or get removed for poor compliance.

Thus, as our previous story noted, the Detroit PPM panel over-indexed for Black 6+, with an April Designated Delivery Index (DDI) of 103, while the Black 18-34 DDI fell to 59.

Arbitron says it has initiated an “action plan” to improve Black 18-34 proportionality in selected markets. Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, Detroit and Dallas are being targeted, with similar efforts under consideration for Atlanta and Washington, DC.

Beginning in mid-April, Arbitron’s panel recruitment began selecting more Black 18-34 households in those targeted markets. Beginning last week, the ratings company is accelerating expiration of panelists in an effort to wash out older skewing households and get a more proportional PPM sample.

In an attempt to get more young black panelists in-tab, Arbitron now provides personal compliance coaching to all Black 18-34 households in PPM markets with in-tab rates below the benchmark of 70%. Additional carry accessories are being offered to get Black 18-34 panelists more comfortable with carrying their meters. Older meters are also being replaced with a new model featuring longer battery life (60 hours) between charges. Various financial incentives are also being used to encourage meter-wearing in the first month of panel participation (to establish good compliance) and over holiday periods where in-tabs typically decline.

Also, Arbitron has begun increasing its cell phone only (CPO) targets beyond what it had agreed to in its settlements with various state attorneys general. Address-based recruiting is being used to get CPO households to 10% of the PPM sample by July and to 15% by the end of 2009. “The cell phone only recruitment skews heavily urban and young,” noted Henrick.

Seeing the impact of the various initiatives in the PPM data is expected to take 30-60 days. “So we are on the cusp of Detroit, in particular, of these initiatives coming in and showing realizations” of their impact on the Black 18-34 demo, said Hendrick. He said, though, that the company is already seeing some evidence of the recruitment effort in weekly data, but the major impact is expected to be in the June and July survey periods. Beth Webb, Arbitron VP/Research, echoed that, saying there is already some improvement evident in May for Los Angeles, Dallas and Detroit.

Arbitron officials say future PPM markets will benefit from the recruitment of more proportional samples right from the start. Miami, Seattle, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul and San Diego are all due to begin using PPM as ratings currency with the release of June data. That will bring the PPM market count to 20.