Are media audits still relevant in a digital and data driven world?

Media audits or media benchmarking

I remember this conversation from a few years ago as if it was yesterday.

It was a frank discussion on media with the Australian CMO of a global consumer goods company. It was also the first time I started to question the value of media audits (or as I like to term them, media benchmarking, as there is no formal audit process involved).

His global organisation was committed to a process of regular media auditing of their media agency. In fact the agency remuneration was linked to the media agency achieving or improving a lower CPM (Cost Per Thousand).

But the CMO was concerned. He would regularly see his competitor’s advertising on television, but only ever saw his own on the agency reels when he approved it. Sure, he knew the media was being delivered and the agency delivered post campaign reports. The media audit reported that they were achieving the reach and frequency objectives.

So why did he not see his ads on-air?

I asked him when he watched television. Predictably it was only when he arrived home at night, usually about 7 pm and right in the heart of peak time or zone 1 viewing, the most expensive and highest rating. For his agency to schedule this time would mean they would be compromising their remuneration bonus, as while the audience delivery is high at this time, the cost is at a premium.

Even the champions of media auditing have turned against it

John Billett is considered by many as the father of the media audit. Billetts, the UK media audit company he founded in 1993 and sold to Ebiquity in 2005 was a global brand in the category. Yet only two years ago he wrote publicly on where the media audit process had gone wrong. He went on in another article to explain why it was nearly impossible to get a poor media audit result.

If the man who had made a fortune in media audits is now questioning the veracity of the media audit process, why is the industry still using the process to benchmark their media performance?

Of course a leading media auditor explained to me that he only wrote this after his earn out. But perhaps he saw the writing on the wall, which is why he sold.

Should you media audit digital?

While there has been a lot of talk about digital media audits, the fact that digital display and video is increasingly transacted through programmatic buying and real time bidding makes the audit process difficult, but also irrelevant. A more important factor is that digital and online advertising is the ideal performance media, where the advertiser can track and measure the behaviour of the audience and the results.

But it seems that some advertisers need a digital media audit process because their approach to digital is the same as their approach to traditional media. Only recently we had an advertiser tell us that they measured their digital media strategy against CPM. (Cost Per Thousand). Ten years after the conversation with the Consumer Goods CMO on his television media performance measured this way and the same approach was taken with digital media in a very similar category.

Rather then worrying about costs, the advertiser should be focusing on performance. What is the digital media investment achieving? There is enough data to be able to track and measure this.

And what about transparency? How much commission, rebate or mark up is there in the digital media cost? With most media agencies using a trading desk set up as a separate entity, most do not provide transparency in the transaction. Or how about clarity around performance? It is believed a high percentage of digital ads are not even seen by the intended audience or even in an appropriate environment.

We do not provide media audits

TrinityP3 agree with John Billett. We think media audits are a waste of time. Why rely on a flawed cost assessment or benchmark, when you can directly address the issues facing advertisers, including measuring value, ensuring transparency and assessing performance.

That’s what we do.

You can find out more about our Media Transparency, Performance and Value Assessment here.

Video Transcript:

SFX: Phone ringing

Hello, TrinityP3, Darren speaking

Yes. Media Audits? No, we are not auditors.

No, not auditors. Chartered accountants. No, that’s right, we do not undertake audits. You really need to talk to one of the big accounting firms….

Media audits? What do you mean by media audits?

Oh, you mean media benchmarking. You want to know if you are paying too much for your media, right?

But that is not an audit. It is benchmarking. Comparing the cost or rate of your media to a pool of data of what other advertisers are paying.

Yes, I understand. But what I don’t understand is why you call it an audit.

Aren’t they just comparing your data to a pool of other data?

Well that is not really auditing is it? It is more like cost benchmarking.

So you just want to know if you are buying media for the same or less than others. Right?

So you don’t want to know if the process is transparent and accountable?

You don’t want to know it is compliant to your contract?

You don’t want to know if it is effective and valuable?

You just want to know if it is what others are paying for their media?

Right, well I am not sure that is an audit.

Sorry, I am not sure that is a media audit.

It sounds more like media cost benchmarking.

All right, a media audit. Like I said, we do not do media audits.

We are not auditors.

We could help you determine if you are getting good media value. And if your media agency is compliant with your contract and transparent in their dealing with you?

No, sorry. I understand, you just want a media audit.

Well I’m sorry we can’t help you.

No, no, no, you have not wasted my time. But I think you could be wasting yours.