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Erwin Ephron Made Advertising What It Is Now & His Advice Still Works

“Before he died, he was railing about the fractionalized media; it would be interesting to hear what he thought in 2021.”

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Have you ever looked at a buy you received from an agency and wondered why they buy so little frequency? The classic buy we see in the industry. It’s 15 commercials per week for 6 out of 12 weeks.

It may be the work of one man: Erwin Ephron.

Erwin Ephron

I wrote about Ephron reminding us not to hammer listeners like nails. Ephron is called the Father of Modern Media Planning, and he passed away eight years ago last week. He passed long before the dominance of internet spending for advertising over tv and anything else ( 2 to 1 over tv, in fact). Before he died, he was railing about the fractionalized media; it would be interesting to hear what he thought in 2021. Ephron, who worked in PR for Nielsen, was called a media guru when he introduced his Recency Planning strategy and wrote several articles on media buying from 1992-2005. His point was simple: The last impression to reach a consumer before the point of purchase was more valuable than any other, and that reach, not frequency was king. 

Think more weeks at a lower frequency, he preached. Not great for selling 50 spots a week for a four-week schedule, but better at selling annual schedules. Erwin Ephron did endorse short flights with heavy frequency for new product launches because he reasoned the buyer was willing to overspend for shelf space.

I would rather have an advertiser stay consistent over a more extended period of time than one that comes in and out. We have a better relationship with the consistent buyer and can engage them in more sales opportunities year-round.  

Erwin Ephron preached to national advertisers to buy more local media in specific vital markets to increase the buy weight. Maybe he was the inventor of Key Market funds too. He lectured media planners to do more than buy national network tv and buy more impressions closer to the purchase decision, so radio and in-store were winners. I imagine he would have endorsed mobile media and search engine marketing to a large degree as well.

His point about what gets a consumer into the market to purchase is worth reciting to clients. Ephron felt that, for example, if our car lease were expiring, that would trigger us to buy a new car on average- not ads that convince us to buy a new vehicle with increased connectivity. So, he figured, one exposure to a car dealer’s ad to car buyers whose lease was up was more effective than reaching three buyers who were not in the market and would tune the ad out anyway. And when radio owners complained that their share of media dollars would shrink because of a reduced frequency per station, Ephron explained that not getting bought at all was way more costly.

I think it serves us well to approach our 2022 annual buyers with this kind of strategy and encourage them to do the following:

  • Buy more weeks at a lower frequency
  • Buy Monday – Sunday 6 am-12mid
  • Buy more stations in our cluster with a similar demo.

Since we never know when a person is ready to buy, it makes sense to be more consistent throughout the year. And, for listeners/consumers, it’s better to be the hammer than the nail. 

BSM Writers

Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?

“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”

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FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.

That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.

Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful. 

Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..

Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.

But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?

It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.

So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.

Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.

But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 73

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What do you think we are going to talk about today? Of course, it is going to be Tom Brady’s deal with FOX! Demetri breaks that down with Brady Farkas. Brian Noe pops by to talk about the NFL’s schedule release strategy, and Demetri weighs in on Bally Sports+.

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BSM Writers

Alec Drake Is A Yield Management Artist

“When you have a deep menu of choices to provide solutions for a client, you must pick carefully and not throw too much into a proposal.”

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Knowing what to sell, how much to charge and how to package it all are common problems in selling sports radio. Packaging Play-by-play, am or pm drive, digital, promotions, video, and merchandise are part of the art of the deal. Fortunately, Alec Drake is a revenue and yield management artist. 

Alec most recently served as the Director of Sales for Cumulus Dallas (including The Ticket) from 2009-to 2021. He now works as a consultant and produces content for the radio sales industry. Alec can help support any sales organization with revenue and yield management, revenue generation strategies, and improving sales performance. You can read his published articles in Radio Ink and get more details on him at www.alecdrake.com. He offers BSM some great advice below. 

Jeff Caves: Help us understand revenue and yield management? What are some case examples relevant to Sports radio? 

Alec Drake: Yield management focuses on getting the most revenue from your inventory, and revenue management looks at all the components in sales that generate revenue and how to maximize dollars. Let’s think about PXP, where you can have in-game inventory, shoulder programming, and merchandise elements. 

Depending on your agreement with the franchise, there are usually some pre-game, in-game, and post-game slots your team can sell. While you could sell this inventory as a stand-alone opportunity, it also can be bundled into a comprehensive season-long sponsorship that includes all assets available. 

Yield Management – Stand-Alone – A game day plan that provides billboards on specific game days for the client and 1 or 2 ads to run in-game. This inventory is priced higher based on the flexibility offered to the client in picking game days and the shorter-term commitment. 

Revenue Management – Season Sponsorship – This six-month program would require a much more significant dollar commitment and, at the same time, offer lots of value for the client. Elements in this sponsorship can include Pre/Post and In-Game ads, sponsorship of the “Coach’s or Players Show” each week, a bank of advertisements that would run in other dayparts (such as pm drive and weekends), and merchandise in the form of game tickets for the season.  

JC: What are your thoughts on giving annual discounts, raising rates, and bonus spots?

AD: Annual discounts can be productive if the terms and conditions attached to the agreement are favorable for both the client and the stations. Raising rates should always be a goal as expenses go up each year for stations, and revenues must go up too. How and where you raise rates is the key to keeping balance for market demand and what the station can deliver in results and solutions. Bonus spots are too much of a crutch in radio, and while used as goodwill during the pandemic, they must now be dramatically reduced or phased out. Strong brands and sales teams will be able to transition away from the bonus approach; weak players will find it challenging in a competitive marketplace.

JC: If you are a station consistently #2 in the format in a market, should you consider category exclusives?

AD: Giving an exclusive is a negative strategy and gives too much power to one client. They typically will not get you the value in dollars to replace what a strong sales effort could deliver for the category in the market, and it’s a sign of weakness in sales management. 

JC: To get them through the summer before Football, what are a few go-to sales strategies you had for stations? 

AD: The Ticket was brilliant in creating an annual promotion in June called “Summer Bash.” Broadcasting live on-site from about 12-7 pm at a venue with food, beverages, and entertainment creates an opportunity to bring in a variety of event sponsors and booth vendors and interface with listeners, a winning combination. The station would often find a location next to a lake or a multi-purpose footprint with a large swimming pool. One of the most original events for The Ticket was “Fight Night,” typically in August each year. These two events always lifted the summer billing, and combined with Football’s training camp period, they all built sales momentum into the fall.   

JC: What is one piece of advice any sports seller could use to improve their sales?

AD: When you have a deep menu of choices to provide solutions for a client, you must pick carefully and not throw too much into a proposal. Understand the natural passion a client may have for one element over another and look to match that with practical advertising programs that will deliver results. Avoid selling a client something they want to buy that will not work for their business goals. Remember, you are the media consultant.    

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