BPA Worldwide, along with about 10 other association and auditing groups, including the Audit Bureau of Circulations, is ramping up Buy Safe Media, a campaign to combat ad buying in un-audited titles.

The program, initiated two years ago by BPA at the request of member publishers, targets client-side buyers in b-to-b markets that spend $250,000 or less on advertising. It has emerged from a testing and research phase and the 11 associations and auditing bodies have begun to reach out to their constituencies in earnest, the BPA says.

“Our publisher members on the b-to-b side were telling us that more and more of the buying decision were being made at the client level, not through an agency,” says Peter Black, BPA’s senior vice president of business development. “They were concerned that the person at the client company did not have an appreciation for audits or quality circulation data.”

BPA conducted a Web-based survey of about 500 b-to-b client companies across a variety of markets in spring 2007, turning in low numbers for audit awareness. The survey inquired about certain criteria upon which buyers based their purchase decisions—placement of editorial, price, audit, and so on. “There was a choice for ‘other,’” says BPA CEO Glenn Hansen. “We had over 300 written-in responses to the ‘other.’ When we analyzed that, about two-thirds were actual attributes that an audit would provide, but the respondent didn’t associate with an audit. They wrote in things like distribution, quality circulation and proven audience.”

A personalized direct mail campaign was launched last fall targeting CEOs, CFOs and, finally, media buyers at 1,250 companies identified as having purchased ads in un-audited magazines across five b-to-b markets. The mailing cited the number of pages that company had purchased over the year along with the dollar value of those pages. The letter also pushed the recipient to the Buy Safe Media program’s Web site, which features a video and information on the pitfalls of buying un-audited media. “Insist on audited media, and be safe,” the site urges.

“Based on our tracking, we got a 10 percent response rate to the direct mail [from the CEOs],” says Hansen. “Then we broadened it to CFOs and we got a 6 percent response from them.”

The third effort, which was targeted to the media buyer, squeaked out a .5 percent response. “Maybe they just didn’t want to be faced with the reality that they bought un-audited media and there were a lot of dollars at risk,” says Black.

Supporters backing the initiative include ABC, ABM, BPA, the Association of National Advertisers, and seven others. “Everybody is handling communications with their respective memberships,” says Black. BPA, for example, has announced a Webinar on the subject to recruit more publisher partners.

Following that, another direct mail campaign targeting 3,300 CEOs and 800 CFOs from companies that buy six or more pages annually in un-audited titles will be launched next week. “We will cite the number of pages they’re running, the likely dollar value of those pages, and the message will be to drive them to the Web site to give them more information to better safeguard their investment,” says Black.