SYDNEY: Achieving transparency in advertising is a perennial problem, believes Sunita Gloster, CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA).

"[Transparency] has worsened considerably in recent years with the emergence of new platforms, technologies and trading arrangements which make it increasingly difficult to get 100% visibility over where and how the advertising dollar is being spent," Gloster said in comments to Warc.

(For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Australia's ad industry grapples with transparency challenges.)

The AANA, which includes some of Australia's largest advertisers, such as Lion, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas, Woolworths and Unilever, released new guidelines for "clearly distinguishable advertising" in November 2016, aimed at boosting transparency for consumers.

Josanne Ryan, CEO of the ‎Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA), believes the marketing community in Australia needs to step up and tackle the issue head on."All of the issues that are prominent overseas are also here, but we're slower to respond in this market," she said.

One factor unique to Australia is the withdrawal of the country's three largest magazine publishers from the AMAA circulation audit at the end of 2016.

"Accountability and independent verification of audience reach are crucial to all marketers. The issue of circulation auditing is more about whether it is a critical metric for advertisers. The majority of advertisers, while mindful of circulation, focus on readership as the key metric," said Gloster of the move.

Ryan notes that the use of sample-based audience metrics by other channels, such as radio and free-to-air television, has seen magazine publishers take a similar step. She sympathises with the sentiment of publishers, but believes exiting the audit is a misstep.

"This is a segment that's going through an intense transition. If we look at it from the publisher's perspective, they are not getting the revenue share the channel deserves and they think, 'We've been really transparent, we've done everything requested of us yet we still are losing share'," she said.

"Using the murkiness that exists with other measurements as a justification for print to exit the audit is not really a valid reason. You can't say, 'I'm going to reduce my transparency and accountability because other media aren't delivering on this'," she explained.

"What we have here is a desire to escape scrutiny and be less transparent. Some people have pointed to the fact that if Google and Facebook can get away with it, and the money floods in, then why should magazines be so held to account?"

Data sourced from Warc