The Hypocrites At Cox, Saga and ICBC

The CEOs at Cox, Saga and ICBC Holdings (Inner City) climbed out of their sandboxes briefly last week to shoot rubber bands at Arbitron once again over the issue of People Meter accreditation.

At least, that’s what they want everyone to believe.

These companies have paid for the latest in a series of what I think are childish ads aimed at their industry’s only credible ratings source in the eyes of advertisers.

They did this during a recession.

And while radio continues to erode as a growth industry.

The latest ad placed in industry trade publications is almost as funny as it is embarrassing. They, and the other groups that think like them (but were obviously too cheap to fund the ads), have the nerve to call the kettle black.

The ad shows a cartoon of a cat (dubbed “Arbitron Fat Cat”) with the headline "What’s More Important, Your Jobs or Making Arbitron Execs Rich?”.

They’re pulling our legs, right?

The execs who authorized this at Cox, ICBC and Saga are not “fat cats”, I guess. And all three of these companies are invoking job losses the way some politicians these days throw around the scare tactics of 9-11.

The ad plays the job security card by saying, “If the data is inaccurate, what happens to your job or your bonus? (In the ad, the emphasis on these words is underlined).

On the surface these malcontents would have you think that they are not against the People Meter – just that they want accreditation first. Of course, some of these same companies employ loud mouths who swamp the trade press with anti-PPM rhetoric (in the name of research).

I don’t have a problem with sticking it to Arbitron if you have a problem with them. But I do have a problem with the lack of honesty that these and other anti-PPM radio groups are showing.

Many of them have signed long-term contracts with Arbitron for People Meter ratings. No one forced them to put their hand on the pen and sign those contracts. Their concerns are right and just if they are their legitimate concerns – after all, once the contracts were signed, they became clients.

But why keep attacking the PPM that you supported with long-term contacts. The radio fat cats (as opposed to the Arbitron ones) have no credibility.

Read the ad and see what happens when top radio executives put their heads together. Is this the best they can do?

“Can we trust people with an incentive to continue the rollout to do the right thing?”

Did they just mention “trust”?

Are they sure they want this very public pissing match in front of radio’s advertising community. You know, the one that wants the People Meter.

The group says, “This isn’t about picking on Arbitron or on any individual…”

Then two lines later it prints Arbitron head Steve Morris’ phone number and calls for people to tell Morris that accreditation must happen before rollout.

Not everyone agrees with this vocal minority.

CBS Radio President Dan Mason said the other day that accreditation doesn’t mean currency. And there are other major players who also know that PPM is important to advertisers.

The diary system has a lot of known problems after many decades of use – some would say too many decades. And the new digital approach using the People Meter has and will have flaws now and in the future.

It says a lot about the forces of the radio industry who fight progress that will eventually be good for them. After all, why are they supporting it with their money?

Advertisers – at least in major markets – want posting accountability, some of the same crybabies oppose it.

Advertisers want PPM and this is the best radio’s brain trust can do – trash their own industry in the eyes of advertisers.

No one is saying you can’t demand answers from Arbitron.

No one says you have to support them with your financial backing in the form of long-term contracts if they are unresponsive.

Just stop demeaning radio in front of its advertisers.

Stop playing the job security card.

Stop acting like children.

And go back to work and get your share prices up before your scorched earth strategy winds up hurting somebody.

You and your shareholders.

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