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'Conspiracy of silence' clouds auditing debate

A rift has developed between the UAE’s media owners and agencies over the auditing of print titles.

A rift has developed between the UAE’s media owners and agencies over the auditing of print titles.

It comes after the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association – which predominantly represents the area’s media agencies – agreed with advertisers to set up a committee to handle the issue of auditing.

Speaking at the Gulf Marketing Forum, Joseph Chartouni, marketing manager for HSBC Middle East, explained that Castor, the Circulation Audit Steering Organisation, was formed by members of the GCC Association of Advertising, IAA, media buying agencies and Dubai Media City to take the issue forward. But he attacked publishers for failing to put forward a representative for the committee.

But Ian Fairservice, managing director of Dubai-based Motivate Publishing, publisher of What’s On, told the audience he had not received any such invitation.
“I am on the board of the IAA and I am a publisher but I have never heard of your organisation,” he told Chartouni.

“Over the years in this part of the world I have heard a conspiracy of silence between the advertising agencies, publishers and media buyers. People have accepted that publishers have lied through their teeth about their circulations for years.

“This is the reason we have relatively cheap media. But this is no longer a struggling poor relation on the international scene. Whatever fibs have been told in the past, we have got to look to the future.

“In two years it will be the audited titles that carry the advertising. The days of publisher claims will be relegated to history.”

Meanwhile, Jamil Mroue, publisher of the Lebanon Daily Star, told the meeting the current discussions over auditing failed to include the entire region. “What do we do about numbers in Egypt, Baghdad?” he said. “There is no point talking about transparency unless you have all the products.”

And one of the area’s biggest spending clients – Unilever – used the forum to push for greater auditing of TV viewing. Speaking about the setting up for the GCCAA, Unilever Middle East chairman Jan Zijderveld, who also chairs the association, said: “We have to be able to justify the sort of money we are investing.”

The GCCAA is behind a concerted push to get people metering technology put in to monitor the KSA market. Zijderveld said: “The main priority is to allow audience measurement. We don’t really know how many people are watching each channel.”

And fellow panellist Abed Bibi, a media consultant, urged media owners to invest in measurement tools, and not leave it to advertisers to pick up the cost. He said: “It’s time for media to put its money where its mouth is.”

And he urged the creation of an organisation to represent the region’s media owners. He said: “Major media owners should create a body like the clients to drive forward best practice standards.”

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