Omnicom Unit Endorses ABC Subscriber Profile Audit

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Tightening the screws for magazines, the Audit Bureau of Circulations won an endorsement from advertising agency conglomerate Omnicom Group Inc.'s PHD USA media buying unit for its Subscriber Profile product.

This latest endorsement means all 10 major media planning and buying agencies in North America now support ABC's Subscriber Profile audit. The shops now require or recommend magazines that submit subscriber studies to undergo an ABC Subscriber Profile audit as well.

"What it means both for publishers and for ABC is a realization that having verified circulation information is good, and augmenting that with verified subscriber information is that much better," said Marybeth Meils, director of communications at ABC, Schaumburg, IL.

Increased competition in the media for advertising dollars has prompted the greater scrutiny from auditing bodies like the ABC and agencies.

In endorsing Subscriber Profile, PHD USA joins media shops like Carat USA Inc., Initiative Media, MediaCom, Universal McCann, Starcom Worldwide, OMD, Mediavest and Mediaedge:cia.

ABC last year introduced Subscriber Profile, an audit that defines minimum standards for all phases of direct-mail-based subscriber research and verifies the findings, too.

The auditing body worked with researchers, advertisers and publishers to develop this minimum set of standards for comparability when advertisers are looking at research results.

"ABC doesn't conduct the research," Meils said. "All we do is verify the results and make the results as reported."

The PHD endorsement also comes soon after ABC modified the standards of its Subscriber Profile audit.

A new change gives researchers access to critical publisher subscriber files often left out from the research sample. An optional exclusion clause lets participating publishers exclude data that they thought did not reflect typical subscriber activity.

"It's sort of increased disclosure that allows advertisers to get a more comprehensive view of the subscriber file," Meils said. "All it's doing is that it's showing data that previously was concealed."

ABC claims this update will boost comparability across subscriber studies. It also will reflect criteria most critical to media buying agencies' decisions when placing ads in magazines.

"It identifies critical subscriber information that should be taken into account when reviewing any publisher's research data," Barbara L. Zack, senior vice president and director of communication insights at PHD USA, said in a statement.

"In fact," she said, "PHD USA will only consider research that has been conducted in accordance with Subscriber Profile standards when evaluating data for prototyping [similar to modeling], or when evaluating supplemental data submitted to support a magazine's candidacy for a specific media plan."

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