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July 10, 2007

ABC tightens exhibition rules in wake of ad:tech

Following the attendance figure reporting issues of dmg’s ad:tech trade show, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) has introduced new rules that will hopefully avoid similar situations in the future and help to rebuild confidence in the exhibition attendance audit process.

The rule changes were agreed at a recent ABC council meeting, in response to the findings and recommendations of the recent review of exhibitions carried out by the organisation. The ABC regards these changes as crucial to the “ongoing evolution of the rules governing the reporting of exhibition attendance figures”, adding that they “have been agreed by the exhibition industry”.
They new rules include:   

• Tighter deadlines for the submission of figures – Exhibitions ending after the 1 September 2007 will have 30 days to submit their data to ABC following the last day of the exhibition, instead of the previous 45 day deadline.

• Clearer information on audit reports – Where audit reports are necessary, wording on Certificates of Attendance for all exhibitions has been amended to include current and previous certified figures where appropriate.

• Clearer indication of the status of attendance data on certificates – Certificates of Attendance have been developed to ensure the distinction between certificates that are organiser’s statements (subject to audit) and those where the audit is complete is clear and easy to see.

• Improved risk assessment of organiser claims – New rules have been introduced relating to the circumstances in which ABC may not issue Certificates of Attendance in advance of audit.

• Increased publicity should figures need to be restated – Should any Certificate of Attendance need to be reissued, a press release will be issued, and made available on the ABC website to inform the industry of the revised figures in addition to the current system of e-alerts and publication of reissued certificates on the ABC website.
For the vast majority of existing organiser members, ABC will continue using the current system of issuing certificates based on organiser’s claims that are subsequently audited. “All parties agreed that this system is effective and provides significant advantages to exhibition organisers and exhibitors in terms of the efficient issuing of accurate attendance figures according to industry standards which are all subject to verification by ABC,” said an ABC statement. The industry agreed system of reporting attendance figures means the responsibility to provide ABC with accurate attendance data, compiled according to industry standards, rests with exhibition organisers.
However, in order to minimise any small risks that are present with this system, additional risk assessment by ABC has been introduced for all exhibitions, to ensure any major anomalies can be identified swiftly and efficiently. Risk factors identified include large variances in figures from previous shows, the registration bureau or registration systems used and the location and nature of the exhibition concerned.
Commenting on the rule changes, Jan Pitt, director of exhibitions at ABC, said:
“ABC, working through its Specialist Committees and Council, constantly reviews and refines the industry rules to ensure not only that they are efficient and robust, but that they closely reflect the evolving needs of the industry.  Through the implementation of these changes, our members and the wider marketing industry can place their trust in those exhibitions committing to providing independently audited attendance figures.”
Confirming the Association of Event Organisers’ (AEO) support for ABC, Hilary Lawson, its director, commented: “The AEO continues to enjoy a close relationship with ABC, ensuring our members, and the interests of the wider exhibition industry are fully represented in decisions concerning changes to the ABC audit rules. As the industry evolves, and its needs change, adopting a systematic approach to refining and developing industry agreed standards is key to the future success of the exhibitions market.”

Of course, the big question is whether the industry thinks these rule changes go far enough to prevent another ad:tech disaster, which was particularly unsatisfactory due to the time it took to recrify.

EVENTS:review invites its viewers to come forward with their comments…

• In a related move, ABC has appointed Philip Lowery, commercial director at Brand Events and chair of the ABC Consumer Exhibitions Specialist Committee, as the new events representative on the ABC Council. “Lowery’s appointment will ensure that the exhibition sector continues to be fully represented on the ABC Council and is involved in any decisions relating to the evolution of exhibition rules, regulations and processes,” said an ABC spokesperson.   
Lowery was present at the recent meeting of the ABC Council in which rules responding to the findings and recommendations of the recent ABC review of exhibitions processes were agreed.

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