Stephen White, who set up his media auditing firm, EMM (Effective Media Management),over a decade ago to evaluate, benchmark, and monitor advertisers’ media investments, believes that as media becomes more complex, “there is absolutely no chance that agencies [should be] involved in “marking their own homework.
“Independent evaluation and scrutiny is demanded by advertisers,” he says, “and from that standpoint there can be no role for the agencies other than delivering great results.”
White knows what life is like on the agency side; after beginning his career as a trainee at Unilever, he worked at McCann-Erickson in both Europe and New York. And prior to EMM, White was a director of Aegis Group. In addition to its London headquarters, EMM has offices in New York – where it manages its U.S. and Canadian business – as well as Miami, Singapore, and Dubai.
Media auditing has been an accepted practice in the U.K. for 25 years and today 55% of all consumer media expenditures in that country are audited. Penetration of the service has been slower in North America, but White says the WorldCom, ENRON and Parmalat fiascos have made independent scrutiny of financial transactions pick up steam.
There is some media auditing taking place in Canada, but it has been mainly conducted by in-house auditors or firms such as KPMG. The U.S. is taking the same approach as Europe and using third-party companies that include EMM and another U.K.-based auditor, Billetts Media Performance Monitor America.
White recently addressed the fact and fiction of media auditing with MIC:
Q: Why should advertisers invest in media auditing?
A: Let me try to tackle a fundamental misunderstanding that seems to prevail in North America regarding the role of media auditors. We are not spot checkers – although that is part of our service – but high quality media management processors who act as a surrogate media department for many international advertisers.
The confirmation of ensuring the advertiser is getting what they paid for only accounts for 25% of our fees. The rest is spent on overall effectiveness and efficiency benchmarking. Proper media management that embraces media evaluation programs later will deliver an average ROI of 20 to 30 times our fees.
Since media is usually the second highest level of capital expenditure a manufacturer makes (typically 4% to 8% of total sales is spent in media), it is unusual and now unacceptable to entrust all that cash to a third party external supplier without any logical checks and balances. Media accountability has to be conducted independently for best practice, and for shareholder reassurance given the scale of money involved.
Q: Does media auditing play a role in improving effectiveness of advertising campaigns?
A: The kind of auditing we deliver is totally focused on improving both media efficiencies and media effectiveness.
Whilst verification is one of the elements we will address in North America,we will spend more time on upscale assessments of media strategy, targeting,media weights, effective frequency bands, etc. than some will want us to.
Remember, it’s the clients who employ us, not the agencies. We are responding to their needs.
Q: Does choosing to have a third-party media audit imply a lack of trust in the client’s media management agency and media suppliers?
A: Media agencies that have not delivered high quality media planning and buying and who have not declared what additional volume related earnings they could get from the media owners have everything to fear from our arrival. Experience tells us that the vast majority of agencies do produce great media results for many of their clients so they have nothing directly to worry about regarding the independent media performance evaluation companies. But as agency heads know only too well, not all their clients get great results all the time. Our job is to ensure our clients do. In many instances, the audit program quantifies just how much added value agencies can deliver.
Q: What are the benefits of media auditing for media agencies?
A: In simple terms, we are able to confirm when good results have been achieved in both cost and quality terms. We are able to introduce incentive programs based on exceptional delivery so agencies can earn more income legitimately and, of course, we are able to short list for new business agencies who consistently perform well.
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