What is media auditing and what will it do for me?

What is media auditing and what will it do for a marketer, budget holder or business owner?

The term “media auditing” can be confusing – depending who you ask you’ll get different answers. That may depend on what responsibility the responder to the question holds within a business, but it may also be because there are different types of media audit. What is generally agreed, however it’s defined, is that media auditing is important and that should be done.

Traditional media audits fall into one of two categories – they either audit price or contract compliance. We’ll take a look at both of these in turn.

What most refer to as a media audit in the traditional sense measures price – the simplest way to explain this is it evaluates the media agency’s buying performance, and gives a price benchmark against a ‘pool’ of other brands. Whilst worthwhile for validation purposes, and particularly when considering switching agencies, one could question what value this will add, other than to verify that the agency is doing an effective job in negotiating and purchasing your media. Surely agencies should be getting the best available rates, but once they’ve done this, where’s the next incremental gain? Traditional price audits are worth doing, so you can be reassured your media plan is bought at the best price.

Another type of audit is the “contract compliance” audit – this does what it says on the tin, and validates if the agency has met its contractual obligations. One would hope that agencies will ensure that they meet the terms of the contract, but does the audit highlight whether the contract you have with your agency is angled more towards them or you as a brand? And could your campaign be sub-optimal if the agency needed to meet a point of the contract at the expense of campaign performance? Contract compliance audits should be conducted to ensure agencies are held to account, but will they improve your ROMI? No.

The newest type of media audit, and a disruptor with the sector, evaluates and ranks media effectiveness. Whilst price and compliance audits are necessary, there are strong arguments to suggest they offer little if any competitive advantage. A Media Planning audit measures “the planning of the buy” as opposed to the “buying of the plan” (which a price audit measures). It is these inputs and the corresponding outputs, measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, and the subsequent recommendations, which once implemented, deliver improved media outcomes and performance.

A good Media Planning audit will rank the depth of the pre-planning research done, and how well the agency really understands you as a client and your product or service. It will rank the planning work done, the implementation of the insights, and monitor whether the strategy is reflected in the media plan. It will review the quality of the outputs of the campaign, as well as the outcomes. This will then take us full circle for future campaign planning.

Media effectiveness is very topical amongst marketers, but also those who have a vested interest in financial performance and returns. With budgets under scrutiny, incremental gains in media performance, which is often a significant cost line for any brand, are arguably more valuable now than ever. Chief Financial Officers and Heads of Procurement are increasingly demanding marketers deliver improved returns on the investment made in marketing. An effectiveness audit gives measurable, actionable outputs which, if correctly implemented, will drive improved results from every media plan.

All media audits are valuable and is generally agreed to be good practice to do. Which audit is carried out will depend on what outcome is desired. If it’s merely to check the price paid is on par and contracts have been complied with, then traditional audits serve their purpose. If the ambition is to improve media performance, then only a media effectiveness audit will deliver that.