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Media Shops Pursue Ad Accountability

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With accountability now a front-burner issue in almost every industry, media buyers' attempts to improve verification have taken on a new urgency. More are now looking to independent firms to ensure that media buys run where and when they are supposed to.

In the past two weeks, Publicis Groupe's MediaVest and Omnicom's PHD have signed up for software marketer AudioAudit's AdVantage Technology Platform, which allows buyers to track broadcast schedules within 24 hours of spots' airing. The media shops had been testing AudioAudit and competitors from Verance Corp., Teletrax and TNS Media Intelligence's BVS system, among others, for the past year.

"In this era of accountability, agencies are being asked to make absolutely sure that every dollar a client spends is spent in a valuable way and the way it was intended," said Mike Donahue, evp, member services at the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The 4A's is working on several initiatives to aid verification and to formalize "third-party, Big Five accounting-firm verification," Donahue said.

A "higher quality of accountability" was the driving factor behind PHD's decision, agreed its CEO, Steve Grubbs, whose clients include DaimlerChrysler, Reebok and Gap.

MediaVest, whose clients include Kraft and Procter & Gamble, will use the software first for Paramount Pictures, said president of broadcast Mel Berning. "If Paramount is opening a movie Friday night ... the next morning we'll know what markets we missed, and we can fix that immediately," he said.

One drawback of the available software is that the products do not comprehensively verify all media. "If you could take all the companies out there, you'd have the perfect product," said Jon Mandel, co-CEO of Grey Global Group's MediaCom. "We find most mistakes are in radio and out-of-home, so until someone comes along tying all ads together, we'll continue to do it the way we always have."