Audit price hike looms in row over use of data

Organisers face a hike in the cost of a basic ABC show audit if proposals to make the certificate distinguish between pure visitor figures and attendance, which includes exhibitor personnel, are approved.

The Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) will demand the upgrade of the Standard audit, the most basic level of visitor analysis, at an Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) Council meeting next month The overhaul is designed to make the system more comparable to the detailed information of a Profile certificate.

Waypoint Exhibitions chairman Phil Soar is threatening to pull the National Venue Show from the auditing scheme unless changes are made. Soar reacted angrily to a table of data that compared Confex's headline "attendance" figure from a Profile audit with "visitor figures" from the Standard audits of competing events including his own. Soar's demands have forced the issue although the AEO insists it has been in talks with the ABC for 18 months.

"Organisers fix their Standard visitor figures by adding exhibition personnel, press and exhibitors," he says. "Why wouldn't we do this when we're in danger of being misrepresented every time an organiser with a Profile chooses to publish a comparison of attendance without making it clear that their figures include wide-ranging attendees?"

The ABC rulings need industry approval before they can be changed and AEO deputy director Austen Hawkins is canvassing the views of smaller organisers across the sector.

"A more detailed breakdown in a Standard audit will cost more as it's more physical work for the ABC," says Hawkins. "But we need to bite the bullet in order to raise industry standards."

Hawkins added that the changes are not likely to come into play until January because "you can't just impose new rules on member's systems without giving them the chance to implement them properly".

ABC director of business-to-business Jan Pitt said: "If organisers want more clarity then we can respond."

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