Agency head of trading on radio ratings: ‘Don’t believe the hype’

• It’s not all about breakfast: ‘For us it is very much about the total day’

As the dust starts to clear from the survey 4 information overload, Mediaweek has looked to an all-important media buyer for some clarity about what the people who fund the commercial networks are looking for.

Our special guest was OMD Sydney head of trading Jane Combes.

Even though we like to think of the mid-point of the year as being significant, forget about it, it’s all about the trend and the last 12 months.

“We tend to look at rolling eight surveys and we look at trending,” Combes told Mediaweek. “We like to look at the eight most recent surveys to give us a full year of data. We look at surveys based on when our clients are negotiating with the networks.

Noting the trends across that year is important. We would never pick just one survey and use the data from that to base negotiations on.

Combes said without a full year of surveys, the data is not robust enough.

Those buying decisions are carefully weighed up, unlike some of the commentary that is associated with the radio sector.

We are not about making knee-jerk reactions on behalf of our clients. We do take the latest trending into account, which can shape the conversation that we have.

“If something has started to trend down consistently across eight surveys, we would rather build in protection for our clients, to guard against further survey declines.”

OMD calls it the best of both worlds – using robust information, and protecting its clients for the future without being locked into something that no longer works for them if the trend continues.

Combes and her team look at ratings predictions, but she noted it is very subjective. “Depending on who you speak to, you get a different prediction. We do forecast what could happen, but it’s more about the data because the ratings can be so unpredictable.

If the numbers are down by a certain amount, OMD will have rate protection to offset that. “Or we will go in and renegotiate deals.”

While there is an increasing focus on survey days about metro network performance across five cities, Combes emphasised OMD looks at market by market.

“We actually look at station-by-station. We don’t do deals just based on a network like the Hit Network or Triple M Network. We would look at SCA as a whole, or smooth and Nova as a whole, but we will negotiate rates station-by-station performance.

All of the propaganda comes out every survey. Sometimes there are claims where a network seems like they are #1 in everything. We take it with a grain of salt. We will look at the claims, but we always run our own figures.”

Combes said the most common demos they look at are 16-39 and 25-54. “That is what our clients trade off, rather than a 10+ audience. That’s a number that is really irrelevant to be perfectly honest with you.”

In television, a #1 overall performance can give the broadcaster a halo effect, that is not the case to such an extent in radio.

In television, there is upside for Seven when they are #1 total people.

In radio, there is less revenue written at 2GB or 3AW because of overall market dominance.

Combes: “While 2GB and 3AW do exceptionally well, the share of revenue they are taking in market does not reflect the ratings. It is how they perform in the demos that are important for out clients.”

As to whether some buyers can overlook those market leaders, Combes said that can happen sometimes. “Some buyers might have a tendency to focus on what they know or are familiar with. If they are not listening to 2GB and haven’t got a clue who Chris Smith is, then they might be less inclined to consider them.

“Because TV is better known across the board, it doesn’t function in the same way.

“Out of home can function like that when you buy the sites that are closest to your client because you know they are going to see it.

“That can happen at times, but not at OMD!” [Laughs]

Being familiar with the various stations and talent can be helpful, but it could sway people the wrong way. For OMD, Combes stressed “the data and results for us are the #1 factor to consider, but at demo and station level, rather than looking broadly across markets.”

Media coverage isn’t any guide that is useful for a buyer. A brand like Triple M often won’t get much media coverage, unless there is a controversy or a show gets axed, yet for advertisers wanting to reach men it is a must have.

“If you look at SCA overall they are performing very well. Triple M has been quite consistent and steady, even in this survey. And you won’t get ups and downs like you might get at say a KIIS or a 2Day FM.”

SCA has added its ad load to its DAB+ stations. How much of a bonus is that for buyers?

“I think more will move towards doing that too,” said Combes. “ARN could perhaps be the next to follow suit. It’s clever because it’s a different way to be thinking about radio. It doesn’t deliver huge incremental figures to us, but it is something we definitely take into account.”

While there is almost total focus in the media on breakfast shows, Combes admitted it is rare to ever just do a breakfast buy. “I don’t think I have ever worked on a client in many years of media buying where I have just bought breakfast. You might do breakfast and drive, or often B-M-A-D [breakfast-morning-afternoon-drive]. There are some clients when you look into the evening as well.

Everyone seems to hang their hat on breakfast, but for us it is very much about the total day.

Integrations and talent alignment are also a major factor in buying decisions. “But that can be pretty straight forward,” said Combes.

“You either want to align with the talent or you don’t. You can make that work quite seamlessly or you know it might become very difficult with risk associated.”

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