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Market research faces backlash in Egypt
Ipsos Egypt’s managing director, Amr Kais, explains what’s been happening behind the media war waged against his company by Vanessa Khalil
February 26, 2014 2:53 by kippreport
In late January, Ipsos Egypt released a slew of press releases and statements reaffirming the transparency of its operations in the country; a defensive move that was, of course, not without reason. In fact, for several months, the research firm had been fighting a naming-and-shaming campaign led by a consortium of Egypt’s top TV channels, questioning the transparency of its processes and the credibility of its ratings results. Out sister publication, Communicate, sat down with Amr Kais, managing director at Ipsos Egypt, to get to the bottom of the matter.
Could you take us through the course of events that preceded the media backlash?
We have been operating in Egypt since 2006. A year ago, we asked TV stations to collectively nominate an independent international auditor, because they were continuously questioning the accuracy and credibility of our results and rankings. They refused, and we stopped sharing data with them in order to pressure them into appointing an auditor. Approximately 10 days later, we released the data upon the request of media agencies, which needed the ratings to do their planning for clients.
[Over the years], we have had clients pay us unexpected visits to complain about ratings results; and our security camera recordings of those incidents clearly reveal that we have never refrained from sharing our interview and research processes, even while they were being conducted.
So what triggered a full-on campaign against Ipsos Egypt this time?
Over the past few months, we witnessed some paradigm changes in TV programming, particularly pertaining to MBC Masr – which was previously airing repeats and reruns.
A couple of months ago, MBC Masr hired the ex-chief at Al Hayat TV – which is the leading TV channel in Egypt – and headhunted producers and program buyers from the station.
It then bought several hit-making programs and launched a very aggressive campaign on its new lineup and revamping.
As a result of this campaign, MBC Masr moved up only one spot, ranking fourth among the top-rated TV stations in Egypt; it was preceded by Al Hayat in first place, CBC in second place and Al Nahar in third. Points wise, Al Hayat and CBC were quite distant from both Al Nahar and MBC Masr.
Following the results and without any prior warning or communication, a representative from Al Nahar showed up at our premises, barged in with six other people we didn’t know, and asked us for data, rankings and detailed information. The rep came in with a lawyer; legally, we had to provide them with the information.
However, we held our right to do so with the presence of our lawyer, as the ESOMAR’s code of ethics entailed some privacy reservations around sharing personal data of people included in the people meter.
What happened after this altercation?
We woke up to find out that the TV channels had waged a war against us, accusing us of threatening national security by directing the advertising money to non-Egyptian TV channels and forging data.
We are currently releasing the data and it is business as usual for us. [The TV stations] should have issued warnings, ultimatums and proper requests. None of this happened.
Among the 10 TV channels that took part in the campaign against us, four had never dealt with us: Al Faraeen TV, Dream TV, ONtv, and Egyptian TV. The latter claimed that the minister of information was supporting its campaign against us, until the minister herself denied this claim.
Last Wednesday evening, all TV programs on six to ten channels, during prime time, were dedicated to the campaign against us. And the same happened on January 26. The stations not only banned us completely from voicing our opinion on their channels, but refused to insert paid ads for us in their respective newspapers as well. Funnily enough, state-owned Al-Ahram and Al Akhbar newspapers were the only ones willing to listen and publish our side of the story.
What measures will you take now?
My priority is to win against all complaints that have been filed against us – with no proof – by TV stations, at the Consumer Protection Bureau under the anti-trust authority. The complaints are not turning into full-fledged cases and are currently being examined by authorities.
The rumors and allegations against us are ridiculous, some stating that I am an American spy and have an American passport – while I don’t and have never been to the US. My equally important priority is to clarify the situation to our clients, which we did through the various statements we have issued.