Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

One of the most challenging questions a media salesperson can be asked is, “How do I know advertising on your station worked?”

For most broadcasters today, there is no definitive answer to that question. Historically, radio and television stations have trumpeted their outstanding reach and ability to help brand products and businesses. And the model worked – advertisers had few other options that provided that powerful and effective combination.

Let’s be honest – we all know advertising on television and radio works for clients. But the problem is we can’t accurately measure how well it works. Many sellers call their clients on a Monday, wondering how their weekend sale went. They tend to hold their breath, waiting for the answer. And quite often the client doesn’t really know either, responding with vagaries like “Traffic was up,” or “It was a decent weekend.” Of course, if it was record-setting, the client probably wouldn’t admit it.

The problem for broadcasters is there is a knowledge gap between the ad spend and the results, but that is about to change.

Until recently, digital platforms like Facebook and Google offer powerful information to businesses that provide easy-to-access information with real-time reporting showing how many people were reached, how they responded, and even where they are located.

Advertisers are responding. A 2017 study by BIA Kelsey breaks down how local advertisers are allocating their dollars, and there has been a discernible shift to digital:

As you can see, dollars allocated to radio are 10.5 percent, while television garners 14 percent. But digital (Online/interactive + Email + Mobile) is capturing more than 25 percent of the ad spend. And these platforms’ ability to provide attribution information is a major reason why.

At last month’s Radio Show in Orlando, you couldn’t walk into a session without hearing the panelists and attendees talking about the importance of data and attribution, including the CEO keynote session featuring iHeart’s Bob Pittman and Entercom’s David Field. It’s obvious the message is being heard loud and clear and in order for radio and television broadcasters to participate, some changes need to take place in the way we sell and position our products and deliverables.

There are a lot of new companies providing attribution products to broadcasters, including Analytic Owl, Veritone, and Elytics, that are beginning to curry favor with advertisers. Individual broadcasters, especially on the radio side like iHeart and Cox, have developed their own proprietary attribution products. These products have the ability to measure actions taken after seeing or hearing an ad or a mention of a client on the air, including Google Search and social media. But none of these providers can capture the full range of actions a listener or viewer might take after seeing or hearing an ad, and that’s the ultimate challenge for broadcasters.

The other challenge for broadcasters is re-training salespeople to not be afraid to sell smaller segments of the audience instead of the huge audience shares they are used to selling. To most sellers, it sounds a lot better to tout a 12-share or 100,000 viewers for a program than it is to talk about 500 identified people in a database who plan to buy a car, or the 75 people who clicked on a banner ad for more information. However, these smaller segments of the audience have significantly higher value for advertisers, as sellers will find when they buy-in.

But that’s the way the world is heading, and broadcasters, in my opinion, are best positioned to develop a powerful combination of reach and branding (via traditional broadcast) and attribution. Neither Facebook nor Google have the ability to drive audience to a digital platform or to take an action – the consumer has to make the first move. But broadcasters have the ability to drive thousands of people to websites, to a social media post, to a video, or to a mobile application. That’s our secret sauce.

Now we just need to come up with the tools to adequately measure it and we’ll be all set.

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