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Mediacom audit: We weren’t asleep at the wheel but we could have done more, concedes benchmarker Faulkner

Eric-Faulkner

Faulkner

The boss of media benchmarker Ebiquity has conceded his company could have done more, after it emerged that it worked with two of the three clients who were misreported to by media agency Mediacom.

Eric Faulkner, CEO of Ebiquity, told Mumbrella: “There are a couple of people in the industry who are saying that we were asleep at the wheel. If you go back and ask were there things we would do differently? Well of course there were. In a perfect world we all could have done more.”

Ebiquity’s media value measurement division, previously known as Faulkner Media Management, works with IAG and Yum Brands to benchmark the performance of their advertising spends against the rest of the industry. Mediacom confirmed today that IAG, Yum and Foxtel has been misled for two years with staff editing documents to reduce audience targets when they had been missed.

Late last year Mumbrella revealed that Ebiquity had changed its procedures over post analysis reports, requiring data straight from the client to ensure agency staff could not change targets to match post analysis numbers from ratings provider Oztam.

Faulkner pointed out that Ebiquity had been providing benchmarks of buying performance, not full media audits. Asked if he was open to paying compensation Faulkner said: “No, I’m certainly not. We are not a compliance audit company and we never at any stage in our contracts said it. We would only be legally liable if we didn’t do something that we said we would. Or we didn’t do something that we claimed we would. Neither of which is the case here.”

Ebiquity has also defended its systems noting that access to campaign expenditures is via direct web-based API links to the BCC media invoicing systems. The company said it was the only media consultancy to do that and noted that OzTAM ratings and Nielsen spot monitoring  could not be tampered with.

GroupM has yet to brief Ebiquity on the findings of the EY audit but today Faulkner emphasised that under the old system, which has now changed, it was only planned reach and rating levels that were taken on trust.

However, Mediacom CEO Mark Pejic told Mumbrella on Friday: “The fact of the matter is those clients – in particular Yum and IAG – are two clients who you would least suspect any manipulation given they had an external auditor. I was extremely surprised that this could happen on a formally audited piece of business.”

Meanwhile, trading directors across other media agencies in the industry have expressed concern that years of misreporting of TV audiences on major clients KFC and IAG may have skewed Ebiquity’s data pools, effectively making other agencies look like they performed worse in comparison than they really did.

One senior media buyer, at a non GroupM agency, told Mumbrella: “Who is auditing the auditor? Do we now need someone to come in and reassure the industry that there has the benchmarks have not been skewed?”

Faulkner said: “We have 73 clients. We have got the biggest pool in this half of the world and so the chances of any individual advertiser, even the biggest advertisers in the pool, influencing the outcome in an individual demographic is nil. The percentage that they make up in any demographic pool is very very small.”

Asked whether there could be a wider industry issue, Faulkner said: “If you accept there were rogues in one organisation, who left via choice or via being asked to leave, who have left then why wouldn’t this be possible at the agency they have moved to?”

But he added: “From what we have seen so far we haven’t found anything else. We have agreed with all of our clients that we will be doing spot checks. We are also going through historic analysis but so far we haven’t seen anything else other than simple mistakes.”

In depth:

Opinion: 

Nic Christensen and Alex Hayes

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