11 Organizational structure

11. Organizational structure

The organizational structure of an ABC must serve its goals, the preparation and making of decisions, and the delivery of its tasks. Whichever market (country) it serves, the organizational functions of an ABC should essentially be the same:

• Decision-making on strategy, tactics, rules and regulations, operations, finance, etc.
• Administration of members, audits, finance, etc.
• Establishing and delivery of audit services.
• Addressing ethical and legal problems.
• Communicate with members and the public: publish data, marketing, public relations, etc.
• Having an active role in the market.

All these functions must be created and maintained by taking into consideration the values and principles listed in chapter 5.

An ABC is basically a joint industry body, which is creating its own rules – applying them to all the members – on how circulation audits are carried out, and how the audited data is published.

The group must ensure that it has the necessary control system over the audit and data publicity processes and, if necessary, to take actions against those members of the ABC which are misbehaving, misusing the data, breaching the commonly agreed protocols, etc.

An ABC is a market watchdog, providing audited, credible media information, and sanctioning its members in case of wrongful actions.

As mentioned earlier, many of the existing ABCs are tri-partite, non-for-profit organizations, embracing a large number part of the industry players. In my opinion and from my experience, this three-legged structure proves to be the best structure,

I will discuss the general aspects of this tripartite structure – but let us not forget that there are alternatives to this approach and, fundamentally, the eventual structure an ABC depends on the given market’s conditions.

11.1. Decision-making structures

An ABC shall function according to a country’s legal framework, as an association (of its members). The organization will have as its major decision-making body the general assembly.

In order to be able to function, the general assembly shall elect from its members a set of representatives: a chairman (president), and a board of directors (executive committee). Naturally, the general assembly is the forum which meets once per year, while the board of directors will meet more frequently.

The task of the board of directors is to supervise and ensure the delivery of the general assembly’s’ decisions. The overall role of the president is to chair the meetings of the board of directors and to be the spokesperson of the ABC.

The board of directors must reflect the structure of the membership (with the board consisting of advertisers, advertising agencies, as well as media companies), while the chairman shall be a well established and well-accepted figure on the market.

The general assembly must make sure that it elects into these positions people who are instrumental in moving ahead the ABC. These roles are high profile, so the individuals in these positions must be fully committed to the ABC and willing to sacrifice time and energy for it. They must be extremely competent and able in completing the tasks of the ABC. They must be willing to serve the common goals, rather than their own business agendas. At many ABCs, these people work on a voluntary basis.

It is a good advice to elect the chairman from among the advertisers. It may be counter-productive (dilute the credibility of the ABC, and create a lot of animosity) to have a publisher as chairman. Other publishers will be weary of another publisher, while someone from the advertising leg is, in fact, representative of the raison d’etre (reason for being) of the ABC.

11.2. Standardising bodies

For practical reasons, an ABC should be able to set up technical groups (standardising committees), who work on defining and designing the technical (audit and similar) rules of the ABC. While the board of directors should have as members the top managers of the member companies, the technical committees should be formed by technical people (finance, distribution, etc.), who can better oversee the details of the processes to be designed.

At the beginning of the process for forming an ABC, it is practical if the board of directors is taking the lion’s part of the construction of the audit rules. Later on, and by the diversification of the ABC portfolio (as mentioned earlier, an ABC can be able to deliver in the future other media audits, online measurements, research, etc.), these technical groups will become unavoidable.

The technical groups can be permanent, or work on an ad-hoc basis.

The technical groups will report to the board of directors and/or directly to the general assembly.

11.3. Administrative infrastructure

The overall mission of the ABC must be assisted by an administrative infrastructure. The task of this infrastructure is to ensure the smooth operations of the general assembly, the board of directors and chairman, the audits, etc.

Here is a list of the work to be carried out by the administration.

• Organize and follow up on the ABC bodies’ (general assembly, board of directors, technical groups, etc.) meetings.
• Administrate the members.
• Administrate the finance of the ABC.
• Administrate the audit process.
• Write, handle, disseminate and archive documents and information.
• Ensure communications among members and with the public, at large.
• Prepare and execute other activities assigned by the decision-making bodies.

The head of this infrastructure is the general manager of the ABC.

The managing director’s job must be assigned to a person who is totally independent from each of the members. Many of the audit operations, and a large part of publishers’ sensitive business information will land on the desk of the managing director. Therefore, no one would like to take the risk of having an untrustworthy ABC general manager, along with an infrastructure – board of directors – that lacks credibility.

It is the task of the initiative group to design a structure that is trustworthy, and to make sure that the whole structure has procedures in place that prevent individual members from influencing the audit operations for their own person/business gains.

Please make sure that the ABC always has such safeguards in place, since it will happen many times that the office of the ABC will be under the pressure of members, who will want to have data bafore their competitors, or information which is confidential. It is prundent to prepare for these types of challenges, and to create clear rules on which information is public, and which is strictly confidential.

11.4. Complaints handling body

An ABC must ensure that the monitoring, recording, investigating and taking of proper actions in case someone (a member) is breaching the ABC rules, is done by an established committee following an established procedure.

For instance, many ABCs have ethical, or complaint commissions. In practice, the complaint body may be the board of directors, or a different committee, appointed or elected by the general assembly of the ABC.

When considering how to handle the complaints issue, one must be aware that many of the complaints will be against ABC members. Therefore, a member involved in a complaint cannot be part of the group dealing with the given complaint.

11.5. Auditing body

An important structural element of an ABC is its team of auditors. The audits can be carried out ABC-hired auditors or on an outsourcing basis.

In the first case, an ABC must operate a full-scale audit department, with all its implications, which will be described in the audit system chapter.

In the latter case, the ABC must ensure only a proper interface in between the audited subjects (publishers), and auditors.

Nevertheless, once the audits start, an ABC must ensure a smooth operation of the service to all its members, including the administering of the audited titles, training the publishers, data transfer, handling, processing and publishing data, controlling the audits, finance, etc. This is quite an organizational challenge.