BPA, which built its reputation on print audits, first began auditing events in the late ‘70s but dismantled that business in 1983 because of a down economy. It re-entered events auditing in 1999, auditing a half-dozen events per year. In 2004, that number doubled.
To punctuate the rapid growth in third-party independent event auditing in the industry, American Business Media said last month that it will begin tracking trade show revenue and attendance figures.
Media Business recently had an e-mail-based discussion with Zuccerella, where he addressed the growing auditing business and how business media companies are using it for marketing.
MB: Why is event auditing a growing business for BPA?
Zuccerella: The growth in the number of show producers interested in having their events audited is clearly being driven by demand for credible, independent verification of attendance and demographics data by show exhibitors and sponsors-who are themselves increasingly being asked to demonstrate not just return on investment, but return on objectives, for their marketing expenditures.
MB: Do most clients audit all the shows they produce, or do they choose key shows to audit?
Zuccerella: BPA members with publications and shows are still being selective about which events they have audited. But a major show producer, Media-Live, will audit at least four events with us during this fiscal year (July 2005 to June 2006), including Voicecon Spring, Mobile Business Expo, Interop New York and Interop Las Vegas. High-tech shows have been leaders in auditing, but the trend is expanding into a variety of markets now.
MB: What show elements do you audit?
Zuccerella: In terms of methodology, we use a combination of on-site and off-site procedures. The data reported are the result of actual counts of verified attendees. Multiple checks and balances ensure precise results. Prior to the event/exhibition, BPA reviews record-keeping systems and procedures to determine functionality and predicted output. During the event, an auditor observes the registration process, inspects periodic output from the system and records exhibit booth net space. After the exhibition, the registered attendance list is tested for demographic accuracy and duplication. We contact registrants to confirm attendance and their demographic data.
MB: How does event auditing help media companies with marketing efforts?
Zuccerella: Having clean, valid audience attendance and demographics is critical for internal, strategic marketing applications. How can you improve your audience demographics or successfully reach out to more of the desired target attendees unless you know the true make-up of your current attendee group? How can you make decisions about spinning off regional or vertical sister shows? You can have a great registration system without auditing, but auditing provides an internal monitoring function.
MB: What are the risks to companies that do not audit?Zuccerella: Independent auditing is going to become the standard for events, just as it is for other media. It won’t happen overnight, but it might happen more quickly than producers might think, given the tremendous push for marketing accountability now within all types of companies and their media purchasing agents. Once a single event within a market is audited, the competition is faced either with doing the same or risking a dangerous loss of credibility.