CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason struck back at the ad campaign by Cox Radio and Inner City that calls for Arbitron to get MRC accreditation before taking PPM to any more markets. In the monthly PPM conference call, Mason said accreditation is not what constitutes currency, but rather consensus between buyer and seller, and he sees PPM as vital for radio to compete with other media. Mason also said CBS Radio is going to be accountable to advertisers – “and that means posting.” And yes, there were some fireworks as consultant Randy Kabrich accused Mason of blocking efforts to evaluate the impact of PPM on ad sales vs. diary measurement.
“MRC accreditation is good. It’s a great ‘Good Housekeeping seal of approval,’ but it is not the currency. The currency is what the buyer and the seller agree to. What we want to do at CBS, and we have taken the stand that we want better measurement. We like electronic measurement, because it’s the future,” Mason said, noting that television already has electronic measurement, it is the future as well for streaming and it is coming for the outdoor advertising industry. Mason recounted a list of media research products which had been used for years before they won MRC accreditation and some which were never accredited at all.
“Do we really want the radio industry to be behind the television industry, the outdoor industry…over an accreditation fight? I think this really hurts us as an industry by putting stakes in the ground like this,” Mason said of the campaign to halt PPM until it wins MRC accreditation. “Business is going to go on every day. Do we want MRC accreditation? Absolutely. It’s the best thing. But business still has to go on,” Mason added.
In his comments, Mason said CBS Radio uses The Media Audit, which is not MRC accredited, and noted that one of the groups backing the ad campaign also uses The Media Audit every day. That was an obvious reference to Cox Radio and its CEO, Bob Neil, sent out an email blast noting that The Media Audit is not used as currency for buying and selling advertising, but Arbitron ratings are. "The point was Arbitron is the currency…Media Audit is a qualitative add-on. I don’t think many people would dispute Arbitron is the main currency," Neil reiterated last evening.
The mini-confrontation between Kabrich and Mason had the consultant, whose primary client is Cox, ask why CBS Radio had refused to participate in a project that the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council had proposed last year to use Miller Kaplan data and have Miller Kaplan and SQAD compare radio ad sales data from the two PPM markets, Houston and Philadelphia, with similar markets still using diaries. Mason said CBS does provide data to Miller Kaplan in its markets and that he didn’t know what Kabrich was referring to. CBS Radio later sent RBR/TVBR an email regarding the proposed study. “As a company we decided it was not something we would like to participate in and informed the Arbitron Ratings Council of that back in October of 2007,” the company said.
On the posting issue, Mason said “We’ve committed to post,” noting that CBS Radio is working with the RAB and advertisers on standards for posting. “We’re going to do it. We think it’s the right thing to do. It puts radio into and accountability that other media have. If you combine accountability with electronic measurement, better measurement systems, we should be exactly where other media are,” Mason said.
RBR/TVBR observation: It is worth noting that the monthly call is no longer being hosted by the Chairman of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council (RAC), which is currently Chuck DuCoty of NRG Media. DuCoty told RBR that the calls had morphed from their original nature to being more about the “relationship between Arbitron and its clients” with special guests to promote PPM, so the council decided it would be better to have Arbitron host the calls itself. The RAC will be hosting the calls for Arbitron diary clients when they begin soon.