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What is “Accountability”?

From Radio One:

Radio One Houston…is pleased to announce ACCOUNTABILITY[ONE], our top of the line scheduling and ratings verification system. This cutting edge software will merge the most recent weekly PPM data with advertising schedules and provide ratings delivery based on the purchased schedule. Advertisers will be able to monitor their schedules on a weekly basis and compare the scheduled cost per point vs. the negotiated cost per point on a day part basis. Advertisers will receive a monthly accountability statement after each PPM ratings period. This will create necessary dialog between our clients and Radio One Houston to ensure our stations achieve the negotiated ratings delivery in a timely fashion.

This system, in other words, provides a match between the amount of air time the advertiser buys and what that advertiser pays for it. That’s what the provider means here by “accountability.”

But in my opinion it’s a very narrow definition of the term.

I don’t mean to take away anything from this initiative, which I think is great and a very positive step. My point is that if I’m an advertiser my true measure of accountability is not whether my advertising buy matches what I expect to pay for it at various rating levels. My measure is whether there is a traceable link between my expenditure and the results of that expenditure, whether those results are measured as feet in the door, goods and services out the door, product awareness, or whatever.

“Cost per thousand” is a number unconnected to the goals of the advertiser, unless that advertiser’s goal is simply to send messages to thousands of people regardless of the outcome of that messaging.

“Cost per click” or “cost per action” or “cost per conversion” are, on the other hand, measures of accountability that say actions are what we’re paying for, not merely exposure.

If your station can count how many feet your messaging sends through a client’s door, that’s a much better measure of “accountability” than anything PPM can give you.

This is where marketing and advertising is headed, folks, and this is where the term “accountability” is likewise headed.

While there will always be a market for broad messages sent blindly to broad audiences with no strings attached, increasingly our clients expect their mix to include a measurable return on their advertising and marketing investment.

Shouldn’t that be our next initiative?

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