Minutes of the Meeting: ABG Board – UAE Measurement Project Update. December 15, 2021

Attended by: Nasheeda & Deo (Nishe), Houda Koussa (Archers), Walid Yared & Julien Cordahi (Choueiri Group), Ibrahim Kadiri and Marie De Ducle (Google), Sanjiv Kakkar and Priya Sarma (Unilever), Elda Choucair (OMG), Deepa Vaidyanathan (P&G), Omar Katerji (Ferrero)

Omar gave the board an intro to the Measurement Project and where we are at.

Auditors Nishe & Co gave the board an intro and an RFP process update below:

Phase 1: RFP was sent to six vendors of which five responded; Phase 2: Nishe were involved in the shortlist and voting process. They submitted a report to the X-Media committee and asked both vendors to submit their 2nd round of proposals. The 2nd round was more about refining and standardising those proposals; “The objective of Nishe’s involvement was to monitor neutrality, objectivity and transparency. While there were no written guidelines for the second round unlike the first round, Nishe noted that there was a consistency of practice between 1st and 2nd round particularly in terms of ensuring involvement of committee members and discussion of all issues raised by all committee members. At the end of the 2nd round, they will issue an updated report, but the overall observation was that the 2nd round had a lot more member participation than the 1st and which is seen in the voting results. Here all committee members were included, feedback were asked, and concerns addressed.”

Voting results – 7th April (1st round): number of respondents were 5 out of 9 on technical scoring and 6 out of 9 on financial scoring. Here technically and financially Nielsen came 2nd; Voting results –  5th Aug (2nd round): both Nielsen and Ipsos were asked to send joint proposals with Aqilliz and Nielsen & Aqilliz came 1st with an avg. of 3.04 and Ipsos 2.50 on a 8 out of 9 respondents; Nov 2021 voting for final decision: Here out of the 9 respondents 2 believed that August voting should remain final so the 2 members that voted for Nielsen, Nishe considered their vote for Nielsen. Of the remaining, 2 voted for Nielsen, 4 for Ipsos which means of the 9 we got 8 votes in favour of either vendor. On top the 9th person who did not indicate a vendor preference but said we should get POC from both, another individual who indicated a vendor preference but said we should get POC from both, hence there are 2 under both.

Note from Julien: 1. as per standards the consultant is not supposed to vote. The consultant is there is assess the technicality of a proposal, advice on whether they meet the requirements. The consultant here voted during all three rounds. 2.  Transparency being one of ABG key pillar, it is advisable that any future vote (of the committee or the Board for that matter) is public, especially in light of such a sensitive and pioneering project.

Those who favoured Nielsen said proposal was more realistic, was able to address the required solution and provided better clarity through their past experience which Ipsos didn’t have. Nielsen’s involvement in KSA can save ABG money – we can take the experience from there and utilise in the UAE. Nielsen has a solution in one place, whilst Ipsos relies on several partners. Nielsen delivery scoring remained higher, even though there were some changes in Ipsos’ pitch post August – for example Ipsos was asked and said yes to a second-by-second data.

Those who favoured Ipsos said technically there were no major gaps between both vendors, but from a financial perspective Ipsos is better, appears to be more amenable to managing the financial contractual aspects of individual ABG members, in the absence of a joint industry committee. Ipsos has experience in the UK and deep understanding of the local market and more collaborative and flexible.

Those that voted for both said technically both vendors are quite close, provided Nielsen is also willing to do POC at no cost – at this point Ipsos had already expressed their willingness to do POC at zero cost. Those who favoured August vote said that the political risk, which was a reason for further deliberation is not substantiated and suggested we also ask Nielsen to do POC for free. Thereafter both vendors were asked if they would agree to do POC for free, even if they were in competition to win the project.

In the Financial Proposal summary submitted 7th Dec 2020, Nielsen said they would absorb their share of POC costs of US$400K but will not be able to do that for Aqilliz’s share of US$312. Nielsen’s annual total project estimate = US$9.3 million (5000 devices, 3-year commitment); Ipsos gave 2 options – Their 2nd option’s annual total project estimate = US$7.9 million (4000 panellists, 8000 devices, 5-year commitment, daily reporting).

Houda gave the board a summary on project: She said when we invited the vendors and went through the proposal review and voting, Ipsos scored higher than Nielsen. We then sent Ipsos a brief and asked them to send us a proposal for POC. Now as their proposal was not up to expectation and didn’t address all points in the brief, which raised concerns with the committee, we asked Nielsen to send proposal for POC as well and address few points which were not fully addressed. This is when we had the 2nd round of voting where Nielsen was voted the winner and here the whole broadcaster concerns came to the table saying they preferred Nielsen and Ipsos work together on the project and that’s when the committee asked if Nielsen and Ipsos were willing to work together – Ipsos said yes, Nielsen said yes but only if there are 2 separate contracts and they wont be accountable for Ipsos. This took time and here Ipsos came back saying they will do the POC for free. In the 2 round of reviews, Ipsos’ last proposal was close to Nielsen’s, and this is how we ended up with a tie – Within the context that the UAE broadcasters had concerns of Nielsen handling the project alone, and this is where we stand at today.

Marie on broadcasters: Given that the August discussions were extended on the premise that the broadcasters had concerns, but it was written in the slide that these claims were never substantiated and are not robust. Houda said this is where the technical committee agreed that they will look into the risk and that the project might go on hold if we don’t take this into consideration and therefore the committee said let’s look into this. Walid was trying to get something in writing from the broadcasters and hence it dragged till now. Walid claims he never said that he will get something in writing from broadcasters, as anyone who has worked with them in the region knows we will never get any confirmation. He knows Google did reach out to the Abu Dhabi broadcasters through the counsel that regulates the media, and the UAE broadcasters said they preferred both and that there was no way to get a written doc. Marie said they have received written confirmation from AD Media and Dubai Media Inc reinstating that there are no concerns working with Nielsen. NOTE: For the purpose of transparency, it is advisable to clarify in the minutes, that the letters that Google obtained as per Ibrahim’s reply to Walid’s remark about the UAE broadcasters, were not presented during the committee meeting.  This is essential at this stage, to avoid causing any misinterpretations or confusion on the part of any person who did not attend such meeting (or any of the Committee’s meetings). In this meeting, Walid also asked Ibrahim to share the documentation received by Google from the UAE broadcasters or issue a retraction.  Ibrahim mentioned that he has raised the request to share the documentation to the Google Government Affairs & Public Policy team and will keep the committee updated on their feedback.

A suggestion from Marie was for the project to be a success, we must involve the UAE broadcasters – they being the main stakeholders that will be measured by this initiative.

Sanjiv thought the Ipsos’s financial proposal is significantly cheaper than Nielsen by 1.4 million per year. Ipsos will cover both costs. Nielsen’s POC is free, but Aqilliz will charge USD 312K. Ipsos is a 5-year commitment whereas Nielsen is 3-year. Technically both are equally competent

Marie said this initiative failed in the past as there was lack of transparency in the process and that the current UAE measurement process has been transparent until August vote. After which there has been unsubstantiated claims which were wrong, that the UAE broadcasters were open to any research company and hence we have been going back and forth on the basis of a claim that wasn’t substantiated. Google is willing to participate in the enhancement of the advertising ecosystem if the process is ethical and transparent. Ethics and best practise being ABG’s foundation too.

Marie reiterated that in the August vote, technically Nielsen was stronger than Ipsos. Then in the context of Nielsen not working alone in UAE, we went back to Ipsos as they hadn’t addressed a few areas technically and then they were at par with Nielsen’s proposal, hence the tie in November which was not there in August. In the August score, Nielsen had a competent financial proposal than Ipsos and from August to November, Ipsos financials decreased significantly but we haven’t granted Nielsen the same opportunity to revise or negotiate financials with Nielsen.

Ibrahim said in terms of transparency and fairness, If we kept the August voting, Nielsen was cheaper than Ipsos and in the subsequent 3 months when the back and forth was happening primarily with Ipsos, this is when the costs of Ipsos went down and we didn’t warrant the same opportunity to Nielsen to revise or negotiate their costing. Sanjiv said if we did give Ipsos a chance to revise their proposal both technical and financial then we must provide that to Nielsen too. Houda said when the UAE broadcasters’ matter was put on the table and Nielsen did not agree to work with Ipsos under 1 contract, this is where we started talking to Ipsos.

To be fair to both, Sanjiv first suggested, we write to Nielsen saying, we have evaluated their proposal with the ABG Board, and we have realised that the process may not have been entirely equal in terms of opportunity to both participants, hence please give us your financial and technical proposals and we then take a call in January. The deadline to receive the proposals must be 15 Jan. The ABG board then meets with the X-media committee on 20 Jan to discuss and take the call.

Sanjiv then recommended getting revised financial proposals from both vendors by 15 Jan. Nishe said that there were some significant differences between the financial proposals (3 years vs 5-year time horizon, number of devices) that have been received from both vendors and hence if the Board’s decision is to obtain revised financial proposals, then Nishe recommended to get financial proposals from both on a consistent basis in order to make them comparable. Sanjiv said before sending this email to Vendors, we first get Asad & X-media committee’s POV. Ibrahim suggested to get equitable proposals from both vendors, the committee must define a scope for both vendors. Technically they were both found to be equivalent. Action: 1. Houda, Asad, Ibrahim, Walid, Auditors met on  21st Dec, to define scope; agree on POV, then email vendors asking them to send their final financial proposals by 15 Jan; 2. Thereafter Houda and committee summarises the proposals and takes it to the ABG board by 20 Jan; 3. Board then takes the call.

Elda asked who is going to fund the project and it may fail if we cant find funding and asked if Nielsen and Ipsos have a POV on this? She said there is a similar project being launched in Saudi and they have come to them for funding and doesn’t know if they can fund both Saudi and UAE? Sanjiv said the users ultimately pay for the data. Elda said historically agencies buy into this data. Sanjiv suggested we put this all to Asad and team, and we then have a full discussion with the x-media committee. Ibrahim said, Google POV to involve the broadcasters essentially answers Elda’s question on the potential funding money they will bring to the table. Discuss POV with the committee.

Minutes added from the 21 Dec meeting between Houda, Asad, Walid, Ibrahim and Nishe:

Following the ABG board meeting on 15 dec, a few committee members met on 21st Dec. In this meeting it was agreed that we go with the recommendations from the board, that in order to have consistency we ask both Nielsen and Ipsos to resent final financial proposals. Ibrahim suggested we prepare a criteria and scope spreadsheet which will be more prescriptive on parameters (a 20-30 mins questionnaire). Walid suggested this survey must be prepared in a way to set metrix for the future and which will help judge the new proposals coming in from both vendors. Ask vendors to identify in the final proposal, who is responsible for what i.e., Aqilliz/Nielsen/Ipsos, and specify and quote for everything including deliverables.

Ibrahim, Asad, Houda and Walid to meet and finalise this spreadsheet by 27th Dec, then ask other committee members’ feedback on the spreadsheet by 28th Dec. 29th Dec send an email attaching this spreadsheet to Nielsen and Ipsos asking them to send final proposals by 15th Jan. Mention in email that this sheet will be used only to compare vendor’s financial proposal and will not have a bearing on the quality of the proposals they have already submitted.

In this meeting, Walid also asked Ibrahim to share the documentation received by Google from the UAE broadcasters or issue a retraction.  Ibrahim mentioned that he has raised the request to share the documentation to the Google Government Affairs & Public Policy team and will keep the committee updated on their feedback.



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