Sue Johenning, Initiative U.S. EVP-director of local broadcast, says 2013 is off to a good start in local markets: "Automotive is up over last year. There is still a lot of telecom. Which is cellular, but it’s also the battle between companies who provide Internet and phone service. Retail is pretty good. Financial is popping in quite a few markets." She also discusses the impact that the upcoming upfronts may have on local TV; whether money is shifting out of spot TV to other media; the move to live-same-day ratings as currency; and Nielsen's effort to improve ratings in diary markets.
Spot TV Spot-Check: Looking Good
Sue Johenning has been gracefully wearing down TV stations and their reps for more than 25 years. As EVP and director of local broadcast at media buying agency Initiative U.S., she oversees negotiations on local buys for clients in virtually every ad category of importance to stations.
Johenning leads a team of some 200 media buyers who work on clients including CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s), MillerCoors, Hyundai, Kia, California Lottery, USAA Financial and Petco.
In this interview with TVNewsCheck correspondent Kevin Downey, Johenning discusses her outlook for the spot TV marketplace, including hot ad categories; the impact that the upcoming upfronts may have on local TV; and whether money is shifting out of spot TV to other media.
She also talks about the move to live-same-day ratings as currency and Nielsen’s effort to improve ratings in diary markets.
An edited transscript:
So, how’s business?
Business was pretty good in first quarter. A lot of the reports we have from the field say that the market was quite good.
No surprise, in various places automotive is up over last year. There is still a lot of telecom. Which is cellular, but it’s also the battle between companies who provide Internet and phone service. Retail is pretty good. Financial is popping in quite a few markets.
In some markets, casinos are strong. There are pockets of political. There is a mayor’s race in Los Angeles. And there’s a special election in Boston to replace John Kerry. Those races will impact those individual markets.
Where are the automotive increases coming from?
It’s up across the board, although dealership spending depends on the market.
Is the ad recession over?
This could be a reflection of the recovery happening more than it did last year. It feels that way, although it’s not like the market is sold out for the year. But the feeling out there is that things are definitely getting better.
What’s going on with pricing?
The market is doing quite well. But we’re in a down year of election cycles. It’s tough to fill that void, so there is less overall demand. Pricing reflects that.
How is the scatter market affecting spot TV buying?
When scatter impacts local the most is when scatter prices are really high and [advertisers] go to local to get the same thing. I haven’t heard anyone saying that scatter is affecting us right now.
What about this year’s upfronts?
Historically, it has an impact. If the upfront is very strong and sells out quickly, where everything is locked up, then there’s anticipation that scatter will be tighter and higher priced. Then, money trickles down to top markets.
But the marketplace has been so different the past five years. The upfront has had less impact. But we’ll watch it because it can have an impact. A flat upfront probably won’t have much impact on our market.
Are you seeing spot TV money shift to other media?
A lot of our clients have a robust multiplatform strategy, so it’s not easy to say TV money went to X. My gut tells me it’s happening, but I can’t say it is going from one place to the other.
I do think television is still very strong. There has been less erosion from TV to other media types than there has been from radio, print and, obviously, newspapers.
In general, online spending is up; mobile is up. That money is coming from someplace. It’s very hard to pinpoint where it’s coming from. Every advertiser is different. Some of our clients are still very consistent in local TV, although they are doing online and other media.
You just have to be really smart with a client’s money. We’re neutral in terms of where the money should go. We let the campaign objectives lead us down the right path.
Which Nielsen ratings does Initiative use in local TV buys, Nielsen’s live-only or live-plus-same-day ratings?
Initiative uses live-same-day ratings. A few years ago, when Nielsen was making this data available for analysis before they went live with it, our sister entity Magna Global conducted an exhaustive study of the Nielsen data to determine which data stream was most suitable for the LPM markets. They looked at more than 115,000 data points.
They found that live-same-day ratings were most closely aligned to national C3 ratings. And, because there is only live-plus-24 hours in diary markets, it is most closely aligned to that.
It gives us as much consistency between national and the two local types of measurement.
How have the live-same-day ratings changed local TV buys?
Including some [DVR] playback in how you evaluate local market ratings is important because it is representative of the way people watch television today. The older end of the demographic — 50-plus, 55-plus — are using less playback. The younger demos are using more playback.
So, if you have no playback in your ratings you are skewing your analysis to be older. To include some playback helps us prevent older-skewing programs from overly influencing our analysis of the demos 18-49 and 25-54.
Nielsen has been talking the past couple of years about enhancing its diary market data with set-top-box data. How is that going?
They’re still in the startup stage, so we have not seen any of the initial demonstration data. But we are very hopeful this will be better for local diary markets, in terms of providing more stability and more accuracy.
Very granular measurement is very expensive. It’s a question of whether the smaller diary markets will be able to afford anything more robust than what Nielsen is now proposing.
If we can get more set-top-box data that would be ideal. But there are issues with privacy and some of the owners of the set-top boxes will not share the data. So those are hurdles before it will become widely available for analysis.