SEVERAL leading media agencies have lashed out at a "disastrous" new system to measure Ireland's advertising spending, claiming the information is too inaccurate to be trusted by them or their clients.
The backlash comes almost a year after international data company Nielsen took over the contract for producing Irish data on Irish advertising spends, replacing ad industry body IAPI.
Agencies initially welcomed Nielsen's appointment, hoping for enhanced data services that would help clients plan their campaigns and encourage spend.
Several agencies now say Nielsen's appointment has had the opposite effect. Some agencies are so unhappy they're now resisting paying for the service and talking about the need to find an alternative or force major improvements.
"It's been an absolute disaster," said Mediaedge:cia managing director David Hayes. "2009 was the fastest-changing year we've had in a long time and ad spend data would have been great to have (to help clients plan) ...
"Instead, online figures aren't being collected at all and we've had to put a health check on data we do give clients."
Mr Hayes attributed the "health check" to discrepancies between the Nielsen data for his own clients and his knowledge of their actual spends, coupled with several "revisions" retrospectively issued by Nielsen and quirks in the way some media are treated.
"As an industry we really need to fix this (and get accurate data)," said Starcom boss Craig Farrell, who describes the Nielsen figures as "inconsistent". "One of our clients' biggest concerns is what their competitors are spending; we need to be able to give them that information in a timely fashion."
Nielsen Ireland's Liam O'Donohoe had previously blamed logistical difficulties for the absence of online data and had attributed other issues to "teething problems".
This week, Mr O'Donohoe said all queries must go through Nielsen's UK office. The UK office issued a brief statement, and in it they said a "road map" for bringing various enhancements on stream was outlined to clients last March.
"The road map is being followed according to plan, with some modifications along the way, led by client request," the statement continued. "Feedback from clients has been positive."
Mr Hayes' comments, however, are echoed by several of his media agency peers, including Mediaworks media director Fiona Field who says she's "lost trust" in the figures, citing delays in getting the data as an added difficulty.
"We've certainly been complaining about it," confirmed Mindshare broadcasting boss Nick Slaymaker, who described Nielsen's failure to provide any information on online advertising spending as a "huge thing".
Carat boss Ciaran Cunningham said "progress had been made" since Nielsen took over and he was optimistic about the service's future, while MediaVest's Stuart Matthews also cited "considerable progress in improving the system" but said some areas still "need serious improvement".