Media Insights Q&A with Jim Spaeth

In this interview.  Sequent Partners' Jim Spaeth goes on record with how he views industry change, how his company addresses ROI measurement, radio engagement and the inherent silos between media and creative at agencies. His work at Y&R, ScanAmerica, the ARF and now at his own firm, has provided Jim with a unique perspective on research applications and solutions.

Links to the full interview videos can be found at

Here is an excerpt:

CW: What would you say is the biggest change in the industry in the past five years?

JS: I'm tempted to say that the biggest change in the industry is no change because it's just amazing the things that haven't changed. But maybe the biggest change is how omnivorous consumers have become. I can remember, and I'm dating myself now, three networks -- and I can remember people listening to only six radio stations.... and now the number of individual programs and titles, stations, the number of devices that people use are just remarkable.



A year and a half ago or so we were working with Ball State. We did the Video Consumer Mapping Study for the Nielsen-funded Council For Research Excellence (CRE). One of the most interesting findings was that if you compare people 65 and older with people 18-24, the 18- to 24-year-olds consumed twice as many media platforms at a significant rate as do the older group. So, just the way that new platforms have been adopted by consumers is remarkable. Now in contrast to that, the way media plans, advertisers, agencies have adopted new platforms is a little less than impressive.

CW: Can you tell us about your project on engagement radio?

JS: Yeah, this one is really interesting. Engagement is a topic that I have always had a lot of heart for. At least going back to my General Foods days, we always understood that different media had different value above and beyond their ability to deliver impressions; that impressions in one medium were not of the same value as impressions in another medium or even within the medium.

For example, we know we pay more for prime time than we do for daytime in television and part of that is prime time's ability to build reach. [It's also] things like the level of attention, the level of commercial exposure and something else that we all presume to be there.

And we also know it on a personal basis because we experience it -- but I don't know if we have been really able to define it. And I think the concept of engagement gets to the heart of it. I was very happy a couple of years back when ARF, after I left, tackled this topic. It's a really tough one.

And I know a lot of people have been less than delighted with the outcome. I think they expected a simple answer, but it's a very complex problem and I think simply letting us all think about it has been tremendously valuable.

We were approached by Arbitron to help them with an engagement metric in radio, which is really kind of interesting on a couple of levels. One, you would sort of expect this work to be led in television or the Internet or something like that. So it's interesting that radio has taken up the call.

But even more interestingly, radio is among those media that I think arguably has a unique relationship between the station and the listener --  or maybe it's the on-air personality and the listener. It's almost intimate. You know when you are in your car and they whisper in your ear or in your earbuds or whatever? So it's a very unique relationship and we are right in the middle of this, so I don't really know what the outcome is going to be. But we are wrestling with the issue of what this means. We have a group of industry experts that help us, because I don't think we want to venture into this alone. But we are trying to define exactly what this means, how it can be measured and, fingers crossed, we will have some early results right after the first of the year.

CW:  Can you give me three predictions for the next five years?

JS: Umm. Well, here's the easy one: There will be less change than any of us can possibly imagine. There will still be an upfront. But to be a little less cynical and a little more positive, the thing that I have the greatest hope for are mobile-location-based services.

I think the thing we have seen over the years is that technologies and services that offer real value to consumers are the ones that get picked up. So people love their iPhones because they do so many things. People love their DVRs because after years of their VCR flashing 0-0-0 or 12-12-12 or whatever, they actually have something that works and does what they need it to do.

And I think location-based services on a mobile phone are going to be tremendously valuable because we are just this society increasingly on the go. So I am really anxious to see those come to fruition. There are challenges -- I mean there are engineering challenges, design challenges, working with a little tiny screen, and so forth -- but I think the potential for value is just tremendous.




2 comments about "Media Insights Q&A with Jim Spaeth".
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  1. Joseph Mccallion from Media Monitors, November 18, 2009 at 10:28 a.m.

    Regarding Jim's comments on engagement in radio, Media Monitors has been using the Arbitron PPM minute by minute data and combining that data with MM's airplay information. This combination of effort allows for Audience Reaction and we can visually show peaks and dips in ratings, etc.

  2. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, December 10, 2009 at 5:41 p.m.

    Hi Joseph,
    Can you share any trends or insights from the data?

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