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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Group Unveils 1st Russian Audit

The Independent Media publishing group Tuesday presented the first fully audited circulation figures in Russia, in a move aimed at boosting advertising in the company's stable of glossy Western-style magazines.

"A lot of publishers claim to have a circulation that is exaggerated," said Annemarie van Gaal, a board member of Independent Media, the group that also owns The Moscow Times. "We want to make sure advertisers get what they've paid for."

Other industry players said, however, that the audit was unlikely to start a trend.

Auditor Coopers & Lybrand unveiled the figures at an awards ceremony Tuesday night for Independent Media advertisers, the first since the company's founding in 1992.

Martini, whose pictures of models temptingly touting the company's liquor graced many full-color pages, was crowned best campaign of the year in the contest. Any company that advertised recently in one of IM's eight publications that publish advertising was eligible for the award, judged by an independent panel of observers.

"This is the best way to secure good publishing services," Independent Media head Derk Sauer told an audience at the Kinomir cinema complex. He added that new results would be published every six months.

Audits of circulation figures are standard in the West, serving to guarantee advertisers a certain level of readership. But media and advertising representatives said Independent Media's was the first such evaluation performed in Russia.

Van Gaal said she hoped the audit "will attract more advertising ... and encourage other publishers to provide audited figures from recognized firms."

"We want to make sure to establish Western standards in Russia," she said.

But Vladimir Shilin, head of the Incompass agency, which distributes the Kommersant Daily newspaper, said there is little stimulus on the market for other publishing groups to conduct such surveys.

"Not all methods and approaches of the West are adopted or understood here," Shilin said, adding that agencies are more concerned with getting space for ads in publications than in circulation figures.

Igor Gubanov, general manager of the advertising and marketing agency AMCom, agreed that audits were unlikely to become commonplace because the government already could take action against newspapers that lied about their circulation.

But Sergei Krivonogov, the director of IM's agency-of-the-year winner Navigator, said independent circulation numbers were useful, since "it is impossible for us to verify figures unless they are officially audited." He added that "it can happen" that some Russian newspapers artificially pump up their circulation figures.

Independent Media is the leading publisher of Western-style glossy magazines in Russia. According to the Coopers & Lybrand audit, November figures for Russia and Ukraine showed Cosmopolitan selling 383,400 copies; Good Housekeeping 195,100; Playboy 101,100 copies; and Harper's Bazaar 77,500 copies.

Of the advertising awards, international firm McCann Erickson -- which sponsored the global Martini campaign -- and the Russian company Navigator jointly won the award as best advertising agency.

The awards produced several other winners: U.S. shoe company Reebok for best corporate campaign; French clothing designer Naf-Naf for fashion and cosmetics; British-Russian telecoms provider Comstar for consumer electronics and high technology; pain relief maker Alka-Seltzer for over-the-counter consumer goods; and Internet company Matrix for design.