Media Auditing - What’s It Good For?
By David Grueneberg, Consulting LLC
In listening to the conversation between Tom Denford and David Indo on the subject of media auditing, I am taken back in time to conversations I have had with many marketers working across a whole variety of businesses. In summary, their opinions mirrored those of Tom and David as to how would these post-mortems of agency buying help to improve future plans and strategies. Yes, it would be nice to know if the money was spent as reported by agency, yes it would be good to know the audience delivery was correctly reported, yes, it would be nice to know if we have received all credits and make goods due, etc. The “trust” of agency to monitor their own success will be verified by the audit and we, the advertiser will be made whole at the end of the process, as promised? Certainly, in many non-US markets, auditing has been a much more common practice among advertisers as the agency often buys as principal, not as agent for the clients. So, auditing helps to belie fears that some sort of conflict of interest would take place, makes a lot of sense then and certainly still does now.
Is the label Media Audit current enough or is the new current streaming of data from digital channels creating the need to update the language to better capture the desire for more immediacy, more actionable results from the activity (and investment). Perhaps a Predictive audit will differ from the traditional media audit in several aspects, including approach, objectives and frequency. Can new software provide greater real-time verifications and validations which will enable marketers to make the adjustments/corrections within the timeframe of a current campaign, or fiscal quarter? Could the predictive audit develop into a preventative audit which flags or blocks certain buys before they are executed?
Our partners in finance have always welcomed the marketers’ purchase of media audits with the expressed hope that money would find its way back to the organization. While this certainly does happen, how much of the “find” stays within marketing and how much goes towards other needs within the organization? I have seen both and have had future audit debates occur as a result.
I think the motivation for audit needs to be focused on the improvements which will be made to future effectiveness driven by enhanced performance of the media plan and execution. Whether media is purchased as a “commodity” where lowest price rules or a more strategic purchase with very special attributes important to the brand and it’s message, the price paid and the quantity purchased remains important, none the less. The lowest common denominator is the gross CPM, it tells us a very little about how correct the purchased item was to the brand’s message delivery. Auditors share their CPM benchmarks and we get very nervous if our own looks higher. How will we explain this to management? How will “quality” be factored into the understanding of benchmarks, especially when we see them in pretty much a vacuum? Is a lower CPM a sign of a better media buy for me? No, so the important question that needs to be asked of the predictive auditors results is why should I allow whoever buys my media to be driven predominantly by price as I know that CPM is not now or ever been a predictor of brand advertising success?
I suggest that we rename Media Auditing to a new more suitable label, perhaps “Media Trajectory CalibratingTM“. This then signifies the intent of the process is to influence future activity with the desired result of improving upon the quality of the strategic and tactical elements of the brand’s plans.
What do you think?
David Grueneberg, Consulting LLC