Media auditing: how to make sure it all adds up

Are you confident that your press audit reflects the efforts of your agency? The solution lies in making comparisons and asking questions,

Making comparisons is natural, and many marketers subscribe to this view when auditing media. However, if you employ a media auditor, then consider this:

– A press pool can be composed of as few as three clients over a six-month period.

– Front-page solus sites could have the same supposed value as back half-sites of equal size.

– The price of fractional space could be compared to full pages.

– An auditor might use two completely separate time periods to compare press rates.

– Advertorials including production costs could be compared directly to standard ads.

Still feel confident about your last audit? I’m not suggesting that auditors deliberately set out to deceive, more that they need to carry out reviews inclusive of press while typically having an insufficient press pool from which to contrast rates.

The resultant discord between clients and agencies and agencies and media owners arises because the agency will be on a back foot trying to justify their buying, trying not to appear too defensive to the client, while simultaneously haranguing their suppliers. In actual fact, both client and agency are being well looked after.

So how can you ensure that your next press audit is an accurate reflection of the work carried out by your agency?

First, check how many clients were active in the period being reviewed and what expenditure they collectively contributed to the pool. You’ll then know what percentage of the pool your business accounts for, the likely spread of rates on which an “average” price is derived, and you can establish what proportion of all press activity can be attributed to your auditor’s pool.

In the past six months, national newspapers took more than &£1.37bn, according to MMS Medialog. An audit pool of &£50,000,000 would account for just over 3.5 per cent of the total expenditure. Is that a robust measure in your view?

Next, establish a level playing field for the “average price”. Make sure buying audiences, campaign period, date flexibility, positioning requirements and the newspaper sections you used are comparable with the pool – otherwise you might as well compare apples and pears.

Carry out a yearly audit as opposed to a quarterly or half-yearly review, thereby increasing the overall business in the pool. This improves the likelihood of comparing like with like. It can also even out contract deals, so your brand new rate doesn’t end up being compared to the final period of a competitor’s two-year deal, when pricing is likely to be highly competitive relative to the market.

Finally, have an open relationship. Encourage your auditor to highlight a low business base. Make sure information is being conveyed and presented in a way that you are comfortable with. Not happy? Ask as many questions as you have to – after all, you’re the one that’s paying.

Chris Smith is planning manager at the Mail on Sunday

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