Looking over the PPM data we get a real picture of how the audience uses our programming. We can see exactly when they tune out and in and with a little reconstruction we can see what was on the air when they left.
What the early data analysis is showing is that the 'trigger finger' is quicker than we may have imagined. They mostly come for the music and when we spend too much time away from it they leave. After you've spent hours and hours pouring over the data the most obvious reaction is DUH!!!
The first reaction by some programmers has been to cut it all down. Limit the jock breaks at all costs and cut the imaging down to the smallest level possible.
No doubt we needed a big hair cut in imaging. Look at the long winded morning show recyclying promos with a 40 second bit (or longer) and plenty of set up around it. Or take the contest where you listen for the secret song, which will be announced by Jimmy and Debbie at 7:35 every weekday morning and then listen all day for the song with special clues at 9-2 and 5 only on WXXX the best of the 70s 80s and 90s. Did we really think anyone with a life was going to play the contest? Or how about the music promos with long music clips in them and spiced up with clips from movies only a Blockbuster employee knows.
Also look at our imaging plan for most hours. EVERYTHING has imaging around it. It's between every song, sometimes in the middle of the spots and of course on both sides of the spot break. There are more imaging sweepers/promos in an hour than there are songs played on nearly every station. Much of this has come from the diary recall system. When you look at the task of getting into a listener's head with enough impact to get them to remember you station that evening or even a week later and enter it into a diary many of us programmers took the sledge hammer of frequency to it recklessly.
In the end we have bit off way more than we have time for with the audience. We often want to accomplish way too much with every sweeper and promo.
It's time to get organized. It's time to get creative.
How well organized is your imaging clock? Take a look at the MOST VALUABLE images you need and want to convey. Then take a look at how much 'inventory' you have to invest in building the image. You need both a long term plan for the campaign and also a short term clock to execute it. Gone are the days when we used to put all the Morning Show sweepers in a cart/folder and just let them rotate. You need a lot more detailed and strategic plan to execute your imaging on this kind of budget.
Creativity counts big time. Every second counts and at the same time you can't overcook it. You also can't just let the same imaging piece ride for weeks on end. It needs to be freshened.
Another fact seques are back and should be used. Many may shutter at the 'dead air' as 2 songs just blend together. How will they know who they are listening to? Guess what - they have some brains and if you've done your job in building the brand and your stationality they will know. Most radio's have a little indicator of which frequency they are tuned to - let's let the audience use that resource to also record their listening.
Even if PPM isn't on the way to you we have to fact the reality that this reflects the real behavior of the audience. Take a close look and listen to what you do between the songs - remember the audience does and from the PPM data it looks like we have some work to do.