Don Miceli Takes on Audit Bureau Chairman Post

Kraft Foods VP: Transparency, Accountability 'Very Critical'

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Don Miceli
Don Miceli
NEW YORK ( -- Blame the Audit Bureau of Circulations if gamblers at the Bellagio this week show unusually sharp eyes and a knack for numbers. The bureau's 92nd annual meeting in Las Vegas, running tomorrow through Friday, is drawing almost 500 people, a group bound to include its share of heavy-duty circulation geeks.

But the meeting plans to get some real business done, including the installation of a new chairman in Donald J. Miceli, VP-global resources at Kraft Foods and a member of the Audit Bureau board since 1998; he succeeds Robert Troutbeck. MediaWorks asked Mr. Miceli where the bureau and print metrics stand -- and should go.

MediaWorks: How would you compare and contrast magazine metrics with measures of other media?

Mr. Miceli: They're all a little different. For TV you use people meters and you can argue whether the sample is large enough. One of the strengths in magazines is that essentially, we have a fairly hard and measurable piece in circulation data. We then use that and combine that with somewhat softer but very directional information on audience. The great thing about magazines and newspapers is the transparency and accountability of the measure, which is very critical. The theme of the conference is "The Rules of Engagement," but there are other measures that we will continue to engage in -- they tend to be softer measures -- focused much more on engagement. When you look at TV measures or print measures, you're essentially looking at the eyeballs that have the ability to see your advertising.

MediaWorks: Where can the Audit Bureau do better? Are you interested in, or capable of, producing audits more quickly, for example?

Mr. Miceli: It's an evolving and constant process. On the ABC board you're looking at both the sellers' side and the buyers' side, but both are focused on making a better product. In just the last year, for greater immediacy we started the ABC Rapid Report, we've revamped the publisher's statement and included a category for verified circulation, we have developed for the business publications the whole concept of a consolidated media report beyond circulation.

Over all the focus has really been on tightening our rules to ensure transparency, comparability and clarity. There will be more work on that going forward.

MediaWorks: What role will you play at the Audit Bureau, where publishers and advertisers often have differing perspectives and goals?

Mr. Miceli: It is about facilitating consensus. I'd love to say at times I can be a King Solomon, but it really is focused on making sure both communities, buyer and seller, are being heard and are both on the same goal, the betterment of the industry.

One goal for the chairman is to make sure ABC recognizes the changing landscape and continues to evolve our services, services that are true to our core goals of accountability and transparency.

I also hope to bring essentially an unbiased approach. A chairman really needs to understand both sides' point of view and bring that together to make a better product for the industry today.

MediaWorks: There's enough talk about total audience, pass-along copies and waiting-room copies of magazines that we have to ask: How important is "paid" circulation really?

Mr. Miceli: It's a relevant metric but truly, I believe, you need to identify all the sources of circulation, paid and non-paid, verified, however we define it. And then it's up to the seller to convince the advertisers of the value of those distribution points and for the buyer to evaluate them.

I don't believe that paid is the only thing that should be measured by any means.

MediaWorks: As publishers try to evolve from print-only to multiplatform brands, what role can and should the Audit Bureau play?

Mr. Miceli: There's no question that we will look to grow our products to venues that are media-measurable and accountable, as long as they align with the needs of buyers and sellers. A lot depends on the nature of where the extensions are. Websites and the internet are an area we are able to track. But I don't think we'll be in business to measure how many towels Martha Stewart sells.
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