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Q&A: NCC’s Nick Garramone

Nick Garramone manages and works closely with all facets of NCC's research department to advance information and methods that further sales efforts on the Spot Cable and advanced advertising platforms. The eBusiness platform has led the move from a paper-intensive business to an electronic process, allowing NCC personnel, agencies, and cable operators to manage their national spot cable business online. Garramone came to NCC in January 2000 as director of Internet business applications. He was promoted to his current position in March 2007. Prior to NCC, he served as Gannett Television’s director of Internet technologies. Garramone recently spoke with Local Cable Ad Sales. An edited transcript follows:

Q: Why is it important to have an industry-wide standard framework for posting local cable television?

A: NCC and our affiliates wanted to ensure that the audiences our advertising customers buy and pay for are measured in a reliable, consistent fashion. By working with the AAAA Local TV committee on this issue, we overcame many of the hurdles and limitations of the current measurement systems used to capture television viewing for most of the country. In fact, the new guidelines are based on much of the research and recommendations from Nielsen.

Q: What will it do for local cable advertising sales?

A: Local, regional and national ad sales continue to grow, and this new process will help the buying community commit to increasing investments with greater security.

Q: How difficult was it to create the guidelines and why weren't they created before?

A: NCC and the MSO’s have been posting buys for advertisers for years, using various models, so a framework more-or-less existed. Coming up with industry-wide standards took some time. The CAB’s Ira Sussman gathered the COLCAM committee [ocal cable research committee] and we worked through all the elements with them, as well as with the members of the AAAA Local TV committee and cable executives. Once we got rolling it was very straightforward getting the guidelines finalized.

Q: What kind of research information do advertising agencies look for these days?

A: Advertisers are looking to identify where their best customer prospects are, what media they consume, and how to reach them most effectively

Q: How is
NCC
filling those needs?

A: NCC has developed a suite of innovative and sophisticated tools called SMART Buy and SMART Plan to meet advertisers’ needs. We subscribe to a number of media data sources [Nielsen, MRI and Scarborough], industry sources [Polk] and other market research [Census, PRIZM]. We combine the data with powerful industry tools and custom analytical technologies to provide our agencies and their advertisers with an analysis of where their potential customers are and the best networks, programs and on- demand products to reach them in every US Market.

Q: Cable network TV is among the segments expected to exceed the overall market average with a projected 5% increase in ad sales compared to last year, according to a recent report from TNS. The top gainer, as in 2007, is expected to be Internet ad spending. How can cable operators take advantage of that?

A: There are a number of advanced advertising opportunities that NCC and the cable operators offer. These include VOD long-form, interactive advertising, polling, requests for information [RFI], digital classifieds and local Internet sites. All of these remarkable new platforms deliver powerful consumer engagement.

Q: What's the most difficult aspect of the business these days as it relates to your areas of expertise?

A: The biggest challenge, and greatest opportunity, involves all the data that we now have available to us. It requires us to be both more analytical and technical in providing our agencies and advertisers with solutions to their marketing needs.

Q: What takes up the bulk of your time these days?

A: Most of my time is spent collaborating with a wide variety of internal and external groups in coming up with creative and powerful solutions that meet the needs of our advertisers.

Q: How has the ad sales business changed since you first started in the industry?

A: Since starting in the business 18 years ago, the industry has used technology and research information in a more sophisticated way. NCC and the cable operators have been on the forefront of these innovations.

Q: Is the
NAB
's ePort basically the same thing
NCC
has been doing for years? Why did it take the broadcasters so long to put something like that together?

A: On the surface, it’s appears to be the same thing, but on further inspection ePort is limited in its scope and scale compared to the NCC eBusiness suite.

There are two reasons that it took the broadcasters so long to get focused on the problem. First, the local station industry had been doing things the same way for decades…inertia… and didn’t, until recently, feel a compelling reason to change things. Second, stations, station groups and rep firms couldn’t get together on the issue. The broadcast industry has not been accustomed to working collaboratively to solve the agency customers’ problems. With their business slacking off for the last 10 years, however, they finally are attempting to do something about it.