Everything Changed In 2020 including Media Auditing

If anything good came out of 2020, it’s been the way we work. Flexible opportunities are on the rise and as working from home becomes the norm, employees are no longer fixed to work in one place. In the marketing world, another thing that’s changing greatly this year are client/agency relationships and media auditing.

A WFA report all the way back in 2018 found that 73% of clients agreed that media auditing needs to move away from price-based judgements, and I can only imagine that that figure has significantly increased in 2020.

Marketing campaigns, now more than ever, need to pack a punch. With unemployment on the rise, consumers are being more careful with how they spend their money. Big campaigns usually come with big budgets but with so much money being spent, how do you accurately see the results?

Many companies find traditional media auditing to be out-dated and not an accurate reflection of how well the campaign has been received. But with an industry worth £20bn a year, there needs to be a way to measure it and improve.

At the start of 2020, there were broadly three types of media audit available to brands. The most common is the Media Price Audit which basically shows that your brand is broadly in line with your competitors. Ostensibly a benchmarking exercise against a pool. The benefit to marketing and procurement: reassurance that media pricing is broadly in line with the market and/or contractual agreements.

Next is the Contract Compliance Audit which is common but less frequent. A check that both parties are in line with their contracted obligations. The benefit to marketing: nil. The benefit to procurement: reassurance that the contracted terms that took months to agree are being adhered to and implemented.

And finally, there is Click fraud, Bot, Teck Stack Audit: the recent ISBA/PWC report was a frightening look into the nether regions of programmatic supply chains. The benefit to marketing and procurement reassurance that your impressions and clicks are genuine, that you got what you paid for, that your suppliers have acted lawfully.

All three types of audit are necessary for any brand spending significant sums in a market. But none of those audit techniques add any tangible benefit to either the brand or the business. The audits are a safety check, a prudent management tool, and a sensible test of authenticity and integrity.

The traditional media auditing approaches add no value to the business or brand, and only provide reassurance, or at least a degree of clarity. In a £20bn UK industry they serve a purpose, they are a necessary evil, but we should expect more.

Auditors don’t have a great reputation, but this shouldn’t be the case. The role of an auditor should be to act as a guide, to simplify the complex, to ensure best practices are applied, and help unlock hidden growth for clients.

The output of an audit should be a future-facing, constructive, educational. An audit needs to offer more than reassurance, it needs to offer growth. It needs to act as a multiplier of brand and business performance.

Mark Ritson, Binet & Field, Lord Byron, the IPA, ISBA, AA, ANA et al focus on effectiveness. Driving tangible results for a brand, business, or organisation is the only reason advertising exists.

There is a reason some brands are more successful than others, there is a reason why some media campaigns produce better results than others. The reason isn't luck or good timing, the reason isn't the product category, or a great leap in innovation. The reason is great planning work - they knew what they wanted to achieve, and they figured out how to achieve it.

So auditing needs to be turned on its head. Instead of auditing the media buying, the focus should be on the quality and effectiveness of the planning work. The inputs, strategy, thinking and quality of the implementation of the media planning should all be evaluating to get the most accurate results. If this is done right, there is potential growth for every brand. And, with a correct Media Planning Audit, around 5% of media budgets can be saved so there is a huge financial reason to make the change.

As world economies deal with and flex around Covid, climate change, and populist-politics, our responsibility as a marketing and advertising community has never been greater. At our best we are a phenomenal force for good, an economic multiplier, we create jobs, value and wealth. The brands and businesses we represent and work with need us to step up and deliver like never before.

The WFA have been vocal on the need for change; ISBA commissioned PWC to audit and investigate programmatic trading earlier this year; respected industry leaders Nick Manning, PJ Leary, and George Patten are all voicing the need for change.