BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board), still reeling from the flak directed at its revamped UK TV audience measurement service [WAMN: 18-Jan-02], was this week urged by a major user to adopt a more open and transparent stance.

Media planning/buying shop Starcom Motive, whose clients include United Biscuits and Procter & Gamble, accuses BARB of trying to play down the problems surrounding the launch of its new system on January 1. The board – which is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, BSkyB, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising – is in danger of losing the support of advertisers, warns Starcom.

“BARB would like us to believe teething problems were inevitable and everything is now getting back to normal,” says the agency. “But the real issue is that Barb and its partners need to start communicating more openly with agencies and clients if they are to win back the industry's confidence.”

Pressing home its criticism, Starcom continued: “Worryingly, Barb and its partners are in full-on defensive mode. Instead of giving clear reasons for each of the problems and outlining what measures are being taken to rectify them, they continue to be vague and unhelpful.”

In evidence, Starcom cites BARB’s initial promise that the new system would be fully functional by January, although it later admitted that its audience panel would not be at full strength until March. In February this target date was put back further because some panellists were “still unable to operate the new system”.

According to Starcom, less than 4,000 of the 5,100-household panel are currently connected to the system. Because of this, advertisers cannot rely on BARB data when planning their campaigns as its panel is under strength in certain regions and for certain demographics. Younger viewers, especially, are believed to be under-represented.

It is in the interests of all concerned that BARB functions effectively, says the agency, which urged the ad industry to co-operate to ensure this happens. But, stressed Starcom, it could do so only if the board accepts responsibility for its continuing problems and sets realistic deadlines.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff