Get audited or lose out warns circulation body

Newspapers and magazines that are not audited face being wiped off the media schedules of some of the region’s biggest ad spenders.

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By  Richard Abbott Published  November 20, 2005

Newspapers and magazines that are not audited face being wiped off the media schedules of some of the region’s biggest ad spenders. That was the blunt message from a special meeting held in Dubai last week to introduce the new Circulation Audit Steering Organisation group, or Castor. Castor, which is made up of the GCC Association of Advertisers, the IAA and media agencies, has issued a series of demands to publishers, including a minimum standard for print auditing, a common trading currency and greater transparency. Publishers heard that if they refuse to sign up with Castor-approved auditors, they are likely to lose business to their audited competitors. “I am happy to pay top dollar to the person that gives me the target audience that I want,” said Sara Sahely, manager, group advertising for Emirates airline and vice-chair of the GCCAA. “As a global advertiser, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have such an empty nest when it comes to data in this market. We certainly need to give you guys a hurry up. It is time to stop mucking round with this issue. The days of publishers’ claims are over.” Joseph Chartouni, marketing manager for HSBC Middle East, said it would take Castor as little as six to 12 months to create a policy about members not advertising in unaudited titles. “This is not a threat. This is a competitive edge for you,” he told publishers. Simon Kay, a former publisher who is working with Castor as a consultant, said: “The advertisers have to say “no audit, no ads”. And Sameer Desai, marketing manager for consumer healthcare at GlaxoSmithKline, added: “Everyone is committed to shifting their spends more towards the audited titles.” The moves were welcomed cautiously by publishers at the meeting, but there was scepticism about how they would be implemented. Simon O’Herlihy, general manager, marketing, for Motivate Publishing, said: “This is what we want to hear, but will they (advertisers) stick to it?” Both Motivate and ITP, publisher of Campaign Middle East, are working with audit bodies BPA Worldwide and the Audit Bureau of Circulation (UK). Castor’s long-term aim is to have a single trading currency for print media. In the meantime, it will approve auditors as they meet its standards. The first bodies likely to receive approval are BPA and ABC. Sahely said: “We didn’t get much of a response from ABC but BPA have been fantastic.” Castor called on publishers to form their own committee to promote print as an advertising medium. Sahely warned that Emirates is putting more money into online advertising because it gives a better measure of return on investment. “As an Emirates person I am absolutely under pressure to make sure things are measured,” she said. “We want to see robust, credible data. “The reality for advertisers is that we have options. We want to put our money behind media that is audited.” The Castor proposal is focused on the UAE but Marwan Rizk, IAA vice-president for the Middle East, said the Qatar chapter had been “unanimous” in its support.

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