Consider the Source


(By Bob McCurdy) The source of any quote, study, research, or opinion piece should determine how much credence it be given. Much of what is put forth as impartial commentary and research, including these blogs, is, at least to some degree, biased toward a particular agenda in which the author or funding source has an overt or veiled interest. But such is not the case below, so I’d like to properly set the stage.

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) is the undisputed gold standard when it comes to marketing and advertising research. Some reading this might not be familiar with the ARF, so here’s some quick background. For over 80 years, the ARF, a non-profit organization, has been the standard-bearer for unbiased quality in research on advertising, media and marketing, working hand-in-hand with advertisers, agencies, media, and research companies to establish industry research standards and best practices.

So, based on the above, it’s logical to also assume that any ARF senior executive’s musings are also unbiased and neutral.

What follows comes from an article published last week, titled, “Why ARF Thinks Marketers Should Reconsider Their Personalization Strategy,” which included insights from the ARF’s CEO Scott McDonald, and the ARF’s Chief Research Officer Paul Donato.

“We’ve taken targeting too far in terms of effectiveness and ethics,” said McDonald. At a time when technology is enabling marketers to inch ever closer to one-to-one marketing, one of the industry’s most highly respected institutions suggests that this “Holy Grail” may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The Advertising Research Foundation warns marketers that excessive targeting can lead to lower-than-expected ROIs, a poor customer experience, and potential damage to a brand’s reputation.

Comment: The operative word is excessive. Targeting is desirable so long as the audience is not too tightly defined. Targeting need not be black or white, micro or macro — there is a middle ground. Advertisers should target, but not so much that reach is sacrificed.

“There’s an economic issue as well because you’re going to pay more for a more specific target,” McDonald continued. “And you may not be building a brand because you’re really only targeting too narrow of the group.”

Comment: Target too tightly and risk forgoing the profits that are sought. A product or service can’t be purchased if it’s not first considered, and it can’t be considered if the consumer is not first aware.

“Advertisers should definitely consider moving away from personalization and consider putting those dollars toward more traditional advertising,” McDonald said. And for a wide variety of reasons, some brands are doing just that. CPG giant P&G upped its investment in AM/FM in 2018 — a move that spearheaded similar action from other brands. “It’s been decades since [P&G] was advertising on AM/FM radio and they’ve got good results from it,” McDonald said.

Comment: In 2017 P&G was the 39th largest radio advertiser in terms of total commercials aired. In 2018, they jumped to fifth according to Media Monitors, airing over 1.8 million commercials promoting 40 different brands. P&G pioneered sophisticated media mix modeling. There is no more astute advertiser in the world.

“It’s very important that advertisers understand the tradeoffs between what they’re getting in a short promotional ad on a digital platform versus what they could do with more traditional media, like a :15 ad on radio or television. They need to understand what the sales return is for the digital ads, but then also balance that out with what the long-term impact on their brand is,” said Donato.

Comment: In marketing and in life, the long-term impact of any action or inaction is often the opposite of the short term. The key is balance: balance between branding and promotion as well as digital and traditional.

I italicized two words above, “excessive” and “balance.” Anything “excessive” is typically not good for the long haul and anything “balanced” is usually better. A media campaign properly “balanced” between digital and traditional will out-perform any campaign tilted “excessively” in either direction.

Some interesting thoughts from two unbiased and much-respected industry research executives that support our “Why Radio” and “Importance of Reach/Broadcast” messaging.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected].


  1. I wonder if Bob might consider how the insistence by the majority of radio operators on the “YOU” thingy in almost all local copy that has been cropping up lately is also a prime example of Excessive Targeting.
    The assumptions about the impact and utility of identifying and accessing EVERY listener by applying the singular “You”, are simply extraordinary AND counter-productive..


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