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NAIROBI, Kenya-Speedo, one of Kenya's top pen manufacturers, had been hoping for a bonanza Christmas last year. Stock was accumulating nicely for the seasonal rush, and a massive TV blitz was booked for December.

But sales never responded, and a puzzled marketing team soon learned why: Not a single one of its spots was actually broadcast.

It was precisely this type of problem that first stirred Roger Steadman to set up an advertising watchdog agency in 1984. Mr. Steadman, an 18-year marketing veteran at Unilever, said that 10 years ago more than 30% of ads were transmitted wrongly or not at all.

Now, with Steadman & Associates monitoring all press, TV and radio advertising, he estimates errors at a much healthier 4% to 5%.

"Our very existence and the fact that we have been able to prove errors to the stations have improved their services," Mr. Steadman said.

Despite the improvement, his information is still very much in demand, for he provides the country's only detailed picture of who is spending what on which brand.

British-born Mr. Steadman says the need for media monitoring in Kenya has always been obvious.

"We [at Unilever] never saw how well our advertising programs were carried out, especially in the electronic media. Expenditure data never correlated with what we knew we were spending," he said. "For example, even if we knew our competitors spent twice as much on one brand as another, the figures never seemed to show it."

In a warren of rooms that used to be Mr. Steadman's home, staffers literally toil through the night, listening to and taping all of Kenya's radio broadcasts and TV spots, as well as scouring newspaper and magazine ads.

For 3% of an agency's media spending, he monitors every display ad or commercial wherever it appears, sending detailed information about ad timing, length and quality.

More importantly, perhaps, he can analyze what, when and where an agency's competitors are spending on ads.

Mr. Steadman's team also prepares copies of any new commercial broadcast by a rival, delivering it to a client agency in only a few hours. Within a few days, the team can provide the frequency, timing and approximate cost of that campaign, and over the year he can build up an extensive picture of an entire advertising agency.

The company also runs a library service of all radio and TV broadcasts for six-week periods, plus a scrapbook of print ads, which is particularly useful for expatriate creatives on temporary assignment.

With media accountability improving and watchdog duties therefore in decline, Mr. Steadman is looking to audience research data for future growth and already offers a diary service.

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