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Erwin Ephron is thumbs up on Less is More - Part 2

Erwin Ephron, father of recency planning and principal of Ephron, Papazian & Ephron, had a few comments on "Less is More" in his March newsletter, "The Ephron Letter." Continued from yesterday:

If advertisers and agencies can't manage clutter, it becomes the medium's problem to solve. And indeed it is the medium's problem. Advertisers have options, while clutter and the commercial avoidance it produces, threaten the cost-effectiveness of ad supported broadcast.

With most of the focus on TiVo and television, it's ironic that the first move to manage clutter comes from radio. Clear Channel Radio's unilateral restructuring of its station commercial patterns (they call them "clocks"), is timely, courageous and very unusual. The last time a medium cut back on advertising was in 1966 when the New Yorker limited ad pages. But that was for reasons of Art not Commerce.

In brief, "Less-Is-More", which is what Clear Channel calls the plan, attempts to keep listeners listening. It reduces total commercial time by shortening the duration of commercial breaks and the length of commercials. The price to advertisers (and how can there not be a price?) is a transition from 60's to 30's priced at more then half of the cost of a 60.

The prudent response of many buyers has been: "Never mind the clutter smokescreen. That's a price increase." And indeed it is, but only because we know the cost of a 30, but we do not know the cost of the clutter we are reducing.

We know too many commercials result in fewer, less attentive listeners. So the advertiser benefit of controlling clutter is reaching a larger number of attentive listeners. But "larger number" is not a number. And that's what we need.

My best "cost of clutter" estimate puts the audience loss from inattention and tune-out at about 7% for each commercial following the first one. This is a extrapolation from recently released Navigauge drive-time commercial tuning data and other earlier studies.

That number suggests that moving from nine commercials to five in a pod, as Clear Channel proposes, will increase the real exposure count of the average spot by close to 15%. That is clearly a cost benefit to the advertiser produced by reducing clutter. The proposed higher relative cost of 30's compared to 60's is a companion issue. On a pro-rata basis, a 30 is worth half of a 60. On a communication basis the difference is far smaller. A Clear Channel commissioned Burke study shows a 30 is worth 70%-to-80% of a 60 in listener recall. And that number is credible. It supports what we all suspect and mirrors TV research. Sixty--seconds is too long a time for most messages.

But Burke recall scores are a narrow frame for value analysis. We need to consider the total ecology of commercial scheduling, because the number of listeners delivered to a radio commercial depends on the holding power of the commercials preceding it.

The rest in tomorrow's RBR and TVBR daily Epapers.

| Part 1 |


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