Radio: The Soundtrack of Domestic Front Lines

May 11, 2020

During past conflicts, our heroes shipped off to foreign lands with the Armed Forces Network serving as the soundtrack and trusted voice.

Think of Robin Williams uttering that most famous of phrases, “Goooooood morning Vietnam!”

The movie was based on the real life of Air Force Sergeant Adrian Cronauer. In addition to a memorable show opening, after he died back in 2018, his family recounted that he loved to personally engage with his audience.

Today our COVID-19 heroes remain stateside, which means they aren’t tuning into AFN for companionship. Instead they are listening to their favorite local stations.

AM/FM radio is entertaining and inspiring these listeners who never stopped commuting. In addition, with each Hometown Hero salute, radio continues to super-serve our core heavy listeners.

For cashiers, health care workers, delivery drivers and all of those on the domestic front lines wearing PPE, radio remains their #1 choice and the 800-pound gorilla in the audio space.

As more people return to the workplace, listening will increase, but it won’t all happen overnight. It will be more like waves of marathon runners crossing the “resumed my daily commute” finish line.

As that happens, being ranked in the Top 5 will become more essential to getting on ad buys.

Your station’s ability to connect and engage off-air with the employed, heavy listeners who matter most is the #1 way you can generate the daily cume necessary to drive ratings and win revenue.

This approach doesn’t reflect some opportunistic shift based on COVID-19 research, but rather it’s the foundation of our strategic approach that’s driven client success for over 30 years.

As you review the latest ratings and prepare to reopen your market, we’re building and executing customized shovel ready plans. Reach out to myself, Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, or Jen Clayborn to set up a confidential conversation regarding your competitive situation.

Radio’s 100th anniversary is going to be unlike any other year in our history.

On behalf of everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Don’t Let Perfect (your budget) Be the Enemy of Good (your marketing plan)

April 13, 2020

It’s already been a month since COVID-19 turned things upside down.

That also means we’re one month closer to restarting the economy.

When the time comes, will you be ready to capture an even larger share of listening and help make up for lost ratings and revenue?

Whether it was post 9/11 or after the Great Recession, we’ve never peddled a shiny new object or touted a magic bullet.

Coronavirus will be no exception.

In fact, during these difficult times, we sharpen our unrelenting focus on building relationships with the employed heavy listeners who matter most to your success.

As weeks turn into months, the strategic initiatives that you commit to during this time will help you win long term on the other side. For our part, we’re increasing our commitment to you – further details below.

In the meantime, as you continue to put out fires and analyze ever changing budget scenarios, it’s not about ignoring the urgent in favor of a virtual corporate retreat, but it’s important that you stay ahead of the curve.

One of the difficulties in making this mental shift is that there continues to be so many unknowns – starting with, when will life get back to normal?

With no definitive answer, your strategy to maximize this downturn doesn’t need to have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed.

According to Voltaire, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

Perfection, according to Psychology Today, “‘may exist as a concept’, but it’s not a reality. After all, its definition is entirely subjective. ‘Achieving perfection’ is entirely a judgment call, depending on who’s trying to achieve it and who’s watching.”

Meanwhile, as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

When it comes to taking action, significant academic and professional research has been done about the importance of maintaining and growing your advertising investment in the midst of an economic crisis.

Additional reports can be found in publications from the New Yorker a decade ago to Forbes last year and Marketing Week this month.

As we examine these insights, it’s worth noting that our feet are planted firmly on the ground. We certainly understand that even before the current pandemic, marketing budgets in radio have continued to contract in recent years, despite increased competition and audience fragmentation.

In fact, this lack of investment coupled with a prolonged drop in audience consumption makes these subsequent insights even more significant for radio.

Despite these limitations, as Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with army you have, not the army you might want.”

Over the last hundred years, America has experienced a variety of recessions and depressions. Yes, each one feels unique, especially to those going through it and COVID-19 is no exception. However, the enduring lessons are the same.

Companies that cut their marketing during times of economic difficulty, create pain for themselves both during and after the downturn, in terms of revenue, market share and profitability.

In the 1920’s, Harvard graduate Roland Vaile studied 250 companies during the Depression of 1920 and 1921. Hard to believe, but there was a depression at the start of the decade only to be outdone by the Great Depression 10 years later.

According to an analysis by Tellis and Tellis, “The study found that across all industry groups, increasing advertising was associated with increasing sales.”

In subsequent downturns, the results are the same.

In reference to the 1970’s recession, analyst Jane Gilday of Faherty & Faherty said, “the companies I follow, such as P&G, Philip Morris, and Revlon, are becoming more aggressive in their advertising…they’d spend more promotional and ad dollars to gain a little more market share.”

Also during the 1970’s recession, Chevrolet dropped their strategy of pegging advertising as a percentage of sales and increased their advertising while Ford decreased their advertising by 14%. In the subsequent year Chevy increased their market share by 2%, while Ford lost theirs.

In 1985, the Research’s Laboratory of Advertising Performance at McGraw Hill examined the impact of advertising and sales during the 1981-82 recession at 600 companies.

According to researchers, “Firms that did not cut their advertising over both years of the recession, had sales that grew almost 340% by year six.”

In 2002, the Journal of Brand Management, studied the advertising spend of 822 firms and found this compelling insight.

“Those that maintained or increased advertising had 7% annual growth in sales in 1991 compared to non-existent growth for the companies that decreased their advertising expenditures. This gap in sales growth between the two groups widened to 25% by 1995.”

Decade after decade the impact of cutting marketing during an economic crisis leads to the most predictable of results – prolonged pain.

It’s the same conversation your sellers are having with your clients.

For our part, we are helping clients continue to execute their marketing and capture increased share of voice.

We are also helping other clients optimize their audience retention and engagement strategy in the midst of a corporate marketing freeze.

For others, they are reaching out to explore strategic initiatives and develop shovel ready plans because they know that there will be enormous pressure to make up for lost ratings and revenue as communities reopen for business.

In each instance, our commitment to you remains the same. We’re going to help you develop and execute relationship marketing strategies focused on the employed heavy listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

We’re also going to continue to treat every dollar as if it was our own and maximize it accordingly.

Based on the conversations we’re having, we appreciate that you are dealing with an endless stream of items that must be handled immediately during the workday.

The tyranny of the urgent prevents you from getting to the important strategic initiatives and conversations that will be essential to your lasting success.

As a result, DMR/Interactive is expanding our availability into the evening from 8pm to 11pm Eastern (Mon-Thurs).

Simply reach out to myself, Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, or Jen Clayborn to set up a conversation.

Truthfully, we love what we do and we’re always available. This codifies our approach as we continue to serve radio and help you navigate these unprecedented waters.

On behalf of Catherine, Tony, Jen, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Open Letter to Radio: coronavirus edition

March 24, 2020

March 24, 2020

An Open Letter to Radio (coronavirus edition),

The coronavirus has already achieved what an invading army would never have dreamed possible – overrunning America and bringing our economy to its knees in a matter of days.

When it comes to AM/FM radio, the coronavirus is set to accomplish what satellite and streaming platforms have attempted, but failed to do for more than a decade – erode the ratings of music stations overnight.

After all, being the 800-pound gorilla of audio with the most profitable and resilient business model along with the largest total reach of any media platform, we have much to lose.

The situation is further compounded because unlike television, our heaviest users get up and go to work every day, which for the moment, is no longer happening.

Conventional wisdom also reminds us not much listening occurs at home on the couch.

Even with the growth of smart speakers and mobile apps, these devices won’t be able to offset the loss of overall listening. This is especially true during drive time as commutes switch from driving across town to walking down the hall.

What’s radio to do?

Let’s get out in front and lean into what’s going on.

Does anybody think less of the aviation industry or their favorite airline because commercial travel has come to a halt?

Even the most casual observer knows that when business travel dries up overnight, airlines are in for severe turbulence.

Like the airlines, it’s taking a global crisis on the scale of a modern world war to significantly impact radio listening.

Reason being: The backbone of radio listening and the backbone of our economy are one in the same – the American worker.

If there’s any doubt that our core audience is upwardly mobile with a paycheck that provides disposable income, this global disaster is going to prove it.

Radio must own our story with confidence and conviction.

National TV news airs every morning and evening. In this constantly changing environment, that’s not frequent enough.

Meanwhile, cable news is a never-ending stream of alerts and loud opinions that only the most avid news junky can consume.

Not to be outdone, social media updates your news feed by the second and is full of unverified information and conspiracy theories.

None of these scenarios serve “the public interest, convenience and necessity.”

Radio is trustworthy and local – two essential attributes in this public health crisis.

Our ability to provide reliable updates every quarter-hour is an essential part of our story.

Trusted voices on the radio – they are companions.

This is going to become even more important as people settle into a work from home routine. A video chat with your best friend at work is nice, but the companionship radio provides will be increasingly essential.

Speaking of video conferencing, despite many of these companies growing their stock price in the midst of a historic market downturn, the business model these platforms operate on is not well suited to make money during a temporary surge.

They have to scale up additional network resources and many of the new customers are not generating revenue due to the freemium model. As soon as bars and restaurants reopen, virtual happy hours will be kicked to the curb.

Further, many of their existing paying customers are encountering technical issues as a result of this surge in usage, which has sparked concerns about the long-term impact on their brand reputation.

For radio’s part, we can have the entire city tune in without any incremental increase in the cost of doing business.

News/Talk is predictably experiencing that surge right now.

We have an amazing over-the-air business model that we often take for granted in this digital age.

We’re able to serve our communities and each additional listener doesn’t increase our costs. It’s another angle of our amazing story as the internet pipes are set to burst.

Radio has always done some of its very best work when responding to a disaster and this coronavirus is no different.

As we navigate this global crisis, we’re going to generate even stronger insights into why our employed audience is so valuable.

Even before we roll up our sleeves and win listening back, radio will have an opportunity to make the case to both new and existing clients that on-air messaging must be an advertiser’s first dollar spent during the recovery; allowing them to reach the people with paychecks and money to spend, rather than the people still sitting on the couch.

Radio’s 100th anniversary will be unlike any other.

Together we will continue to drive radio forward.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, this is the latest installment of an annual Open Letter to Radio series that began in 2016.

It was initially written to coincide with Labor Day, radio’s unofficial holiday, a claim made possible by the dominant percentage of listening that’s delivered by employed persons across markets and formats.

Earlier editions of the letter are available here: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.


Andrew Curran
President and COO