Why media audit?
To make the most of your marketing budget! The upsides could be large. Even if your media budget is only £1 million and your agency is only 5% off the average on a cost/quality measure you’re losing out on a value of £50,000.
On a budget of £10 million, that equates to half a million pounds of lost value!
An audit will identify areas for your agency to improve, and so provide you with better value for money. Remember it’s not just about the price you pay, but the quality of the media you are getting too.
You should audit your media agency if you suspect they may not be delivering to the targets you have set them in a competitive nature.
With such a large percentage of top advertisers employing auditors, you could argue that you have to employ one, because otherwise unscrupulous agencies may avoid giving you the least good pieces of media, saving the best for clients that are!
They know that it will be recognised and rewarded there, whilst you won’t know about their tricks!
Why is media auditing necessary?
Prices and values for media are in a constant flux: the variation in value that advertisers get from media owners can be massive.
For example, we have personal experience of similar pages in a magazine being sold to different advertisers in the same issue for a difference of 300% or 400%!
Back to back pages are sold to one firm for £800 and to another for £4500. This can come about due to variation in market conditions such as how long in advance you need to book; skill in negotiation; or the desire of the media owner to have a specific client on board.
More surprisingly, variation exists not only between agencies, but within agencies too. Frequently deals are done by agencies to access some high quality media spots, such as a TV first break in big brother.
But these may carry a cost to the agency – they may have to agree to take some other, poor quality inventory to balance out the favour they have had.
It is the agency who then decides how the inventory is allocated amongst its clients. Are you one of the chumps that gets more than your fair share of late night TV, keeps getting second half left-hand pages in big magazines or never quite seem to get that back page newspaper ad you wanted?
Ironically, even very big spending advertisers are not immune to this variation. Research has shown that whilst size of media of spend can be a big factor in getting a good price/quality score, there are plenty of small advertisers who buck the trend and beat them.
How to carry out the audit
It’s crucial to not alienate your agency during an audit process. Most agencies are used to the process and will sometimes be welcoming to it.
However, this is a bit like having someone mark your homework, when the homework was previously done by self-assessment. The steps are:
- Inform your media agency of your intention to carry out an audit.
- Decide on a choice of auditing agency. At this stage you may even want to involve your agency in the choice.
- Have an initial meeting with the auditor (without your agency) to understand what their process is.
- Chair a meeting between the auditor and your media agency to kick off the process and understand what the auditor needs. Set a deadline for completion.
- Make sure the auditor does a pre-meeting with the agency so that they have a chance to express their feedback about the findings of the audit.
- Hold a debrief with the agency present, but by all means speak to the auditor separately.
- If the audit is negative, set some performance targets within a set time-frame for the agency to improve. After six months, do another audit to see if they have met the targets.
- If the audit is very negative (if say, the agency are more than 10% away from the average) consider if this is the right agency for you.
- If the audit is good, take your agency out to a damn good lunch.
The costs and benefits of auditing
Costs depend on how much you spend on media, the complexity of your spend and the length of time. A typical £1 million + spend would cost between £10k and £20k.
If you spend £1 million a year, you only need to get 1.5% better value to save the money. Even if your audit is good, it is very likely you will find ways to improve by 1.5%.
Who should carry out my audit?
The main media auditing firms are:
- Fairbrother Lenz Eley
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