Today’s battle for client audits is a good sign, argues ID Comms Assurance's global chief exec PJ Leary, maintaining media auditing is long overdue a renaissance. Below, Leary shares four key principles that new audit models will need to focus on in 2021.
My worst fear when Accenture finally announced it was quitting the media auditing scene in order to focus on its agency business was that no one would care. That advertisers would simply wave goodbye, arguing that traditional auditing had become less than relevant.
Instead, what’s happened was a battle to create blue-chip, media-value tracking solutions fit for 2020, rather than persisting with the original pool-based approach that has been the sector’s staple since John Billet and I first launched auditing in the US in the early 2000s.
From the launch of Maximise, its takeover by MediaPath and Ebiquity’s investment in APAC staff to ID Comms’ own acquisition of my consultancy, PJL Media, there’s been a surge of new entrants and advertiser interest in a sector that has for too long been stuck in rut.
The traditional media auditing model where prices paid for ad spots was pooled to create a simple number that all advertisers could compare their buying skills against was right for its time but it has been out of date for years. Not just in digital – where it never gained real traction – but also in its core area of TV, where in the last four years huge fluctuations have developed in connected and over-the-top (OTT) spend, make many marketers’ continued overreliance on a pool a source of confusion and wonder.
Smart advertisers have long seen the obvious limitations with price pooling and agree that the industry needs to move away from outmoded media price judgements to focus on value-based assessments. Many global marketing procurement teams are fully behind this shift as has been highlighted by the WFA’s Project Spring report, which was published in early 2020.
That’s why the new competition to be the media performance management partner of choice is so heartening. The role of assessing the value of the media is vital so that advertisers can be assured - from an objective expert - they are continuing to get good value and desired outcomes from their significant investments in media.
Innovation across the sector by players new and old will enable marketers to rethink the value they put on their media audit and consider how they can make it part of their everyday work.
In order to deliver on the excitement surrounding today’s next-generation audit, new models will need to focus around four key principles that matter in 2021 and beyond.
Firstly, auditing will be more closely tied to business outcomes. The media audit needs to reflect the performance against the KPIs that truly matter to the business and genuinely reflect the business objectives if it is to be truly actionable and deliver competitive advantage.
Secondly, auditing will be insight rather than numbers led. It’s vital that we illustrate what today’s performance means rather than just ‘what did I pay’ so that performance can be improved next time around. The best media audit reports will act as management tools, quickly bringing together insights from large data sets, presented simply and clearly.
Thirdly, audit reports will focus down on what truly matters. Auditing needs to accept that less is more and practitioners must refrain from presenting over 100 slide powerpoint decks. The next generation media audit won’t leave it to the client to work out what they should do with the numbers but will deliver clear, actionable and fully vetted priorities for future improvements that are laser focused on the business imperatives.
And lastly, there will be new and improved approaches to digital, with a different view on KPI setting. It will include not just bespoke auction-based media assessment but also transparency, best practice and optimization around brand safety, ad fraud and viewability.
The departure of Accenture Media Management from the auditing landscape is not just an opportunity for advertisers to review their approach in this area, it’s also an opportunity for our industry to reinvent itself.
Today’s competition for clients is the best guarantee that media auditing will adapt and evolve from the pool into something more relevant, more powerful and more likely to help marketers improve their performance.
Healthy competition is a positive force that will drive innovation and better solutions. It will ensure that the very best auditing for 2021 and beyond is not just planned and executed properly but also delivered in a genuine collaboration with the agency.
Media auditing will become an engine for growth. And that’s the start of a new golden age.
This article was originally published in TheDrum, on January 7, 2021.