Talk about Big Brother moving into the electronics age.
Arbitron Co., best known for measuring radio audiences, is touting a device that automatically monitors broadcast media used by the person carrying it. The Personal Portable Meter, or PPM, is a pager-sized device can keep track of a person's radio and TV usage. Not only does it have the ability to distinguish between media, but it can identify individual stations.
Arbitron says the device could help marketers track their increasingly multimedia-oriented audiences. 'It's all about creating the right message, delivered to the right people in the right medium, at the right time,' says Henry Laura, vice president of sales and marketing for the New York company. PPM works by detecting an encoded signal unique to each station. The wireless device stores data about media usage that is then downloaded at the end of the day when its wearer places the PPM in a base station. The company has tested the system in Baltimore and Manchester, England, but so far has not signed any contracts with clients or announced prices.
'You've got to find out where to find the people before you start building a message,' Laura says of the device.
In the meantime, Arbitron has developed other services it thinks will help advertisers reach consumers.
One is Scarborough Research, the joint venture it formed with Dutch-based VNU Business Information Services in 1994. Scarborough surveys 170,000 people in 60 U.S. markets each year. Included in their questionnaire is an automotive section asking participants which make and model of vehicle they drive and where they might shop if they were in the market for another vehicle or automotive products or services.
Scarborough research includes which sections of a newspaper consumers read and which ones they skip. Similar information is available for specific radio stations and select magazine titles.
Detailed information on individual markets is available for a fee four times a year. Top automotive spenders such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co. pay $60,000 each for a one-year subscription. Agen-cies can also purchase the information based on their total billings, generally fees ranging from $8,400 to $60,000.