Media auditing is the practice of checking that the media that a client has bought is in the right places, at competitive prices. Being in the ‘right places’ is critical here: firstly, the audit has to establish that the media WAS transmitted, and if that is so, then that its placements are appropriate for the target audiences, environments and tasks that the advertising client needed for his brands. To take an extreme example, there is little point in advertising denture fixative in a kids’ TV programme, however cheaply the airtime in that programme has been bought.
Why you should carry out a media audit?
Media is typically the single largest line-item in the marketing budget (the making of the ad itself is typically about a sixth of the size of the media spend). For some organizations, media space or time (ie airtime on the TV or radio) is actually the single biggest purchase they make – ahead of any single raw materials cost. Because the sums involved are large, and because they can be cost-controlled via a media audit, it is simply good business practice.
Who uses media auditing?
In some markets, it is easier to answer who doesn’t! Most major advertisers use media auditors in markets where developed solutions are possible. Most of the Ad-Age Global Top 100 would media audit in the main Western European markets. Elsewhere, the quality of provision is increasing quickly. InUSA, for instance, the quality of Ebiquity’s output is every bit as good as inWestern Europe, and the value of it in measuring and controlling the huge adspend budgets in that market is fast coming to the marketing community’s consciousness.
How to get the best out of media auditing?
It is not just a stick to beat the agency with. To get the best out of an media audit process, you need to be close to the media auditor, to understand clearly how his methodologies work, and what improvements his analyses enable. Once you are completely clear on the size of the prize, be prepared to incentivise the agency to make improvements, particularly if those improvements would make you a top-performer in the market. But remember too that you employ the auditor to be unequivocally on your side: if he brings you unwelcome news about agency performance, you must not let good personal relationships with the agency side you against him. The auditor wants things to improve – help him to achieve that, in a collaborative way.
Costs and Benefits of Media Auditing
The cost of the media audit will vary hugely, dependent upon the number of media being audited, the number of campaigns being analysed in detail, the frequency of audit. There is also a dynamic of auditor size. Bigger, better-resourced media auditors who run robust databases with developed tools, and subscriptions to syndicated data have higher overheads than those who don’t. Their fees will be correspondingly higher, but their work will be more reliable.
Typically, the client should expect his benefit to be a multiple of his fee (5:1 is often used). This is mostly easily measured in decreasing media prices, but equally he may feel the investment pays for itself in the additional visibility and control he gets over this major cost line.