Bob Wootton, MediaSense advisor, gives his viewpoint on the disconnect between media agency and brand and the need for credible industry standards to be installed for clarity, consistency and above all trust between agency and auditor.
Stemming from the recent Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) K2 transparency report and comments from Sir Martin Sorrell on media auditor conflicts of interest, the Marketing Week article identifies the need for an industry code of practice for media auditing.
Wootton highlights that, “One key way of doing this is to have high, common standards, and a code of practice for media auditing would help bring some welcome order to things.”
In the past some media agencies have discredited auditors and consultants by highlighting the notion that auditors are operating in their own ‘business interests’, which he believes only strengthens a brands resolve to look more closely at their media. “Having worked among and represented most of the UK’s largest advertisers for 20 years, I can tell you that this seldom has the desired effect, instead undermining trust and stiffening clients’ resolve to exercise their own choice.”
He also senses the pitfalls of agencies’ chosen compliance auditors: “Giving agencies power over the choice of [compliance] auditor could arguably influence the ensuing audits themselves.” He highlights the belief that the big four accountancy firms have the general competencies but not the specialist knowledge to probe into a very complex ecosystem, however “in truth, several now have pretty highly-developed specialist practices.”
Wootton also points out the issues that have arisen from the ‘one-man band’ performance auditors who undermine the credibility and robustness of the auditing process. “These one-man bands have tended to lean heavily on personal ties for both custom and information and don’t have the systems or data to audit a major media buyer credibly.”
In the current climate, the need for rigour is very apparent, especially with the size of media spend at stake: “The UK ad industry alone is worth £20bn year, the large majority of that spent on media, so the stakes certainly justify such professionalisation.”