The MRC view on accrediting Arbitron's PPM


With 14 of 48 Portable People Meter (PPM) markets accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC), Arbitron made a giant leap forward this week, but still has many more markets to go. RBR-TVBR asked MRC CEO and Executive Director George Ivie whether the PPM accreditation process has been slower than usual.

“It takes a while to accredit something new, but I think Arbitron’s proceeding through the process a little slower than average,” Ivie replied. But he added that PPM itself is a unique service. “It’s a complex thing to accredit a new service and Arbitron is adjusting the service to meet the compliance needs of the MRC – and that’s taking time,” he said.

What has made PPM accreditation more time-consumming?

“One of the fundamental issues is this is a panel-based measurement. So you go out and you install a bunch of people with these PPM devices and they carry it. The things that happen in the panel, you’re ultimately talking about humans doing things. And when you need to make changes, you want to correct behavior and do things like that, it gets ultimately very difficult. Because you’re going out to large numbers of people that you’ve recruited and you’re trying to adjust their habits – making them carry the meter better, or recruiting more ethnic people, or whatever. You can imagine all the different things. That’s very difficult to do and it’s time consuming – and Arbitron, in undertaking, they even tout their own process improvement and performance improvement plans – and this stuff has been evolving slowly over time,” Ivie explained.

“And then when markets get in what we think is adequate shape we accredit them. And that’s what’s going on,” said the MRC official. Thus, 11 more PPM markets were accredited this week, bringing the total to 14.

Why are 14 markets different from the other 34?

“Because there are easier markets and there are harder markets. So you’ve got large, racially complex, diverse markets that are harder to bring into line in that process I just described than other markets. And that’s taking time. Arbitron’s on the right track, but it’s taking time,” Ivie replied.

“You think about New York. You have access-controlled buildings. The diversity of the population. Just the attitude of the people. I’m not saying that New Yorkers aren’t nice – I live in New York – but, you know, maybe they’re a little bit reticent to answer their door sometimes. And then compare that to a Charlotte – the lifestyle and dynamics are totally different and that can make research more difficult. You see markets that are more difficult than others to make this panel thing work,” said Ivie. “When Arbitron moved from diary to PPM they really increased the level of complexity – about how people cooperate, the longitudinal nature of the cooperation, the sensitivity of the measurement to racial and ethnic difficulties that you might be having to get cooperation,” he added, among other things that make the panel methodology and its slower turnover quite different from diaries.

But in moving forward with the accreditation effort, Ivie noted the new leadership at Arbitron, with Bill Kerr as CEO – “he’s really changed the organization from the top down” as far as dealing with customer concerns. Then Gregg Lindner was hired from Scarborough as Chief Research Officer – “a seasoned research guy.” Both are personnel moves that Ivie praised for getting Arbitron focused on what’s needed to win accreditation for PPM markets.

RBR-TVBR wanted to speak with Lindner, but Arbitron declined to make him available for an interview, saying that the company wanted to let the official news release speak for itself.