Campaign results have never been more instantaneous, readable and actionable, YET media auditing is still measured in the same way it was over 40 years ago. Many brands are now questioning its value, for two reasons:
1. Behavioural conditioning
Faced with a checklist of standard audit criteria, a media buyer decides to mitigate their risk by doing just enough to get a pass mark for each benchmark. Having passed their media “MOT”, buyers will buy to the same formula over and over again. Buying strategies become homogenised and outliers few and far between, because the agency “buys to audit” rather than “buying to plan”.
2. Performance limitation
Most brands agree to disclose their media data to participate in a pooling exercise. Problem is, the bigger the pool gets, the bigger the gravitational force exerted by ‘The Average’ on each member of the pool. Brands which improve their position are signalling their advantage to the rest of the market, which makes it really difficult to accelerate beyond the pool’s mean. To realise truly exceptional performance brands must withhold their data or exit the pool altogether.
A growing number of brands are realising the benefits of a less prescriptive but more analytical approach. By asking better questions they are achieving better results. Here are FIVE questions which should form part of your next media performance review:
Test 1: Am I buying to outcomes or inputs?
A good place to start. Everything a media agency does should be geared to delivering client outcomes, which are aligned with specific communications objectives. Once objectives are set, KPI targets for media fall into place. Every advertiser has different objectives and should have their own unique set of metrics.
Test 2: Is my buying neutral or pre-determined?
The media agency has superseded the media owner as the market maker, so it is crucial that brands ensure their agency is ‘buying the plan’ and not ‘planning the buy’. Buying decisions must be made on merit, not on vested interests. The rationale for investment allocation and the reasons for any bias should be anatomically assessed.
Test 3: Is my buyer efficient or wasteful?
The greatest loss of media value comes from inefficiency, such as over-buying, soft planning or imprecise targeting. No campaign is perfect, but buyers must be accountable for spending budgets competitively and in a laser-like fashion, not aimlessly. Your evaluator should be able to isolate these inefficiencies, quantify the value leakage and propose remedies.
Test 4: Is my buyer in control or asleep at the wheel?
As buying inches towards real-time optimisation, the onus falls on your agency to alter, improve, test and learn on-the-go. A buyer’s role is to exert positive influence by setting up the right quality criteria in advance and then applying continuous control throughout your campaign. No advertiser should be paying their buyer to be asleep on the job.
Test 5: Is my buyer delivering completely or selectively?
The modern day media audit must ensure as much spend is addressable against targets, and prevent spend slipping out of range. Brands must hold their agency to account for every penny they spend, not just the portion they present for evaluation.
Brands must demand more probing, customised and insightful performance measurement for it to be worthwhile. To achieve better oversight of their media investment, brands are now seeing the benefits of a more relevant and less formulaic approach, which raises the level of expectation for their buyers.
Andy Pearch is Co-Founder of MediaSense, global media advisors helping brands take control of their media.