Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Originally published December 16, 2016

In early December 2016 we featured an interesting question raised by Pierre Bouvard on his blog about why commercial radio seems to get cut out of advertising buys placed by New Your City ad agencies. 

Bouvard’s theory is that buyers in NYC don’t listen to radio when they commute to and from work.  Instead they use public transportation (subways, etc.) where they don’t hear radio. Bouvard believes that ad buyers don’t buy time on radio because they don’t listen it themselves despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

Bouvard used the chart on the left to make his point. It shows the proportion of people who use public transportation versus people commuting in cars. 

The data comes from the US Census Bureau. 

As you can see, the commuting pattern is much different for NYC than the other nine markets listed and the national average.

Based on this info we wondered whether people who work at foundations that provide public media funding might also follow the same trend. After all many foundations are located in Manhattan. Some are in the same zip code as ad agency media buyers and likely also ride the subway to get to and from work.

We decided to see what proportion of foundations that are major financial supporters of NPR are in NYC. We looked at a list of NPR’s foundation supporters and randomly chose ten foundations whose names are well known to NPR listeners.

Five of the ten are located in New York, often within short walking distance from the big ad agencies. The remaining five are in the Bay Area, Miami, Chicago, Indianapolis and, of course, the Walton clan is in Arkansas. Can we assume that folks at the NYC foundations, perhaps the Program Officer for your program or project, also commutes to work on the  subway, not in a vehicle with a radio?

Now comes new research from NuVoodoo Media Services [link], that probes Bouvard’s theory. NuVoodoo (pronounced: new voodoo) is a good company with a lousy name that specializes in quick turn-around perceptual research.

NuVoodoo surveyed 423 advertising decision-makers nationwide, included marketing executives, media buyers and planners, ad executives, creative directors and business owners to test the validity of Bouvard’s theory. The study found that ad buyers who don’t listen to AM/FM radio during their commute to work are about half as likely to include radio in their ad plans.

On the other hand, media decision makers who commute by car are 75% more likely to have radio in their media plans than their public transit colleagues.

This is not proof of causality but it is a close correlation.

NuVoodoo opined that media buyers must realize that most Americans commute by vehicles and do hear radio more than any other audio sources.

The findings bring up questions about how in touch New York media strategists are with the majority of the Americans.

Is the same true of Foundation folks based in New York? Maybe Jarl Mohn, CEO at NPR should commission research to find out.

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