Saga joins ad campaign to demand PPM accreditation


“I have no dog in this fight right now,” says Ed Christian, but he worries that unless PPM is done right now any problems won’t be fixed by the time the roll-out gets to his largest markets, Columbus and Milwaukee. So Saga Communications has joined Cox Radio and Inner City in an ad campaign to urge Arbitron to hold up resumption of the roll-out until PPM gets MRC accreditation in at least one market using the Radio First recruitment methodology. The new ad charges that it is wrong for Arbitron to base executive bonuses on the speed of the rollout, rather than on getting the data right. 

“We’re not against PPM and we’re not Luddites, but we are for accreditation,” said Christian, CEO of Saga. His largest markets are well down the list for the PPM rollout, but he’s still worried.

“If it’s not done now, when will it be done? What is the bright line test? Once it starts, it’s too late,” Christian said, calling the change from diaries to PPM a “Herculean, monumental paradigm shift.” 

In Christian’s view, the MRC is the expert agency on whether the PPM methodology is up to snuff. He’d like the radio industry to ask MRC which way Arbitron should go with PPM – whether it should use the telephone plus door-to-door recruitment methodology which has been accredited in Houston or the telephone-only system that Arbitron is using in Philadelphia and plans to use in all future markets. “Why don’t we ask them? Christian said.

The latest ad focuses on Arbitron’s disclosure in SEC filings that several top executives are in line for millions of dollars in bonuses for meeting the PPM rollout schedule. “Oddly, there is no incentive payment for getting the data right. We think that is wrong. Can we trust people with an incentive to continue the rollout to do the right thing?” the ad reads.

It goes on to cite problems with PPM data in Houston and Philadelphia. “all this adds up to a Company that can’t manage even two PPM Markets. We can’t trust them to fix something after its been launched. Look at Philadelphia’s sample. Look at the diary markets,” the ad states. It then urges broadcasters to call Arbitron CEO Steve Morris and “let him know that MRC accreditation needs to happen before continuing the rollout.”

RBR/TVBR sought comment from Arbitron on the latest ad, but the company said it had nothing to add to its previous comments.

RBR/TVBR observation: Arbitron’s official decision on whether to go ahead with the planned September restart of the PPM rollout is due later this month. Even so, company officials have left little doubt that the “go-no go” decision is almost certainly going to be “go.” The only way we can see that changing is a huge groundswell of opposition from major group heads. So far, though, there are only three companies signing onto those ads.