Research Tough in Tiny Towns

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Chicago -- At the recent CAB Local Cable Sales Management
conference here, CableTime's Northern division vice president of ad sales, Larry
Whitaker, who is based in Bloomington, Ill., spoke about ways to make the best use of
available resources.

"Traditionally, off-the-shelf research is not a viable
option for us in 60 percent to 80 percent of our territories," he said.

Whitaker -- whose division encompasses 220 systems reaching
1.3 million subscribers in 14 states, including Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and
Wisconsin -- said a 3,200-subscriber system in Iowa, for example, uses SRDS, a provider of
media rates and data, in its client presentations.

Since it has 71 percent cable penetration in its market, he
said, that system is a major media influence on retail and auto sales. Whitaker claimed
that the tiny Iowa system influences $17 million in car purchases.

"In the small-market systems that we work with,"
he said, "spending $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 on research is not a viable option for
us."

Relying on SRDS and Sales & Marketing Management
magazine's annual survey on buying power by state and county, he said, gives his 100
or so account executives considerable sales-pitch ammunition.

"The best research is the one that gets the order.
'Everything else is irrelevant brilliance,'" he observed, referring to
Oglivy & Mather cofounder David Ogilvy's definition of "great copy" as
being what makes the sale.

--Jim Forkan

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