Advertisers left cold by auditors’ attempts to measure digital value

The world’s biggest brands fear that attempts to improve the effectiveness of their media investments are being hampered by auditors’ loose grip on nascent performance tools such as programmatic buying and ad viewability, according to a survey by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

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Advertisers believe auditors are crucial to measuring media but have not yet adapted to emerging performance tools.

The conclusion is based on responses from 29 companies across 15 different industry sectors to the challenges facing media auditors.

It found that the percentage of digital impressions auditors can measure declined 13 per cent and 16 per cent year-on-year in the US and Latin America respectively between 2012 and 2013. Growing demand for services such as programmatic buying, which do not have auditing processes in place yet, has left digital budgets riddled with inaudible impressions, according to the researchers.

In Europe, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of digital budgets are measured due to the lack of clarity around newer techniques, putting marketers at risk of making assumptions based on inaccurate data. The paradigm shift has made advertisers worldwide keen to move from the classic cost-auditing model whereby rates and schedules are dropped into an anonymous pool with others to benchmark who is getting the cheapest deals.

Despite auditors’ struggles to keep pace with digital developments, advertisers believe they have a crucial role to play in improving online effectiveness.

Most advertisers (91 per cent) say auditing is “crucial” to measuring media value and that auditors are an “indispensible” business partner, the report finds. It stems from 87 per cent of respondents predicting programmatic buying and online viewability tracking will be key to the auditing process over the next few years. Three quarters (75 per cent) said paid search consultancy and measuring media value in emerging markets are also areas of interest moving forward.

The need for auditors to deliver more value to companies could also stretch to areas such as financial auditing with marketers paying closer attention to transparency in media buying. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of advertisers think auditors should offer econometric modelling in order to gain transparency around commissions, rebates and volume bonuses between agencies, holding groups and media owners.

Matt Green, senior manager of marketing communications at the WFA, says: “As it stands auditors are not quite delivering in the way that advertisers need them to. As auditors evolve their digital services away from the classic benchmarking, advertisers need to work closer with them to set objectives based on real business outcomes rather than just buying media to satisfy audit results.”

The results are pulled from survey on what the WFA’s members think of media auditing companies and to establish what auditing services are needed moving forward.

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