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Changing of the guard – why digital media deserves a better audit

The advent of digital technology is transforming media buying; from a transactional activity into a project management activity. In traditional media, before a spot is even booked deals have been done, allocation has been set, and the outcome is already known.

In digital media, a good buyer can make a huge impact on the eventual outcome and understands which levers to pull and when, from set-up to post-op. The fluid and highly technical nature of the digital media landscape requires the media buyer of the future to be multi-skilled.

The difference between excellence and failure is determined by the buyer’s ability to optimise the following five key levers:

Setting the controls. In the set-up phase of any campaign a number of controls, checks and balances need to be in place to act as campaign guardrails. These support the campaign’s objectives and govern the behaviour of the media suppliers by ensuring each placement meets minimum criteria such as brand safety, frequency capping and verification.

Choosing the right metrics. The selection of measurement criteria is a defining moment for any digital campaign. Avoiding the temptation to measure everything that moves, a good buyer understands the relationships between the metrics (i.e. how viewability impacts conversion) and learns to focus on the ones that really matter.

Firm hand on the tiller. The oversight of inventory quality, message environment and relevance has to be assessed at lightning speeds for the best results. A good buyer must remain flexible enough to stop activity on one platform and start activity on another if it is not returning results, re-directing investment into more effective shop windows.

Application of data. Choosing which datasets to use and how to apply them is a critical skill. Data can be used to target more accurately, to change messages, or to present information at relevant windows, so a good buyer knows when to use data and how to layer it onto the campaign. But using data simply for hyper-targeting is a practice which is running out of road.

Learning on the go. Getting reliable analytics is desirable, but too much information can lead to data overload. Great buyers know what tools to use to analyse campaign information, and how to test hypotheses based on the insights they are seeing. They will phase their activities methodically so that they can detect the signals from each, creating time to set up tests mid-flight.

So what is the role of the Performance Evaluator in this space, and what value can they bring?

The traditional media auditing firms have failed in this area by trying to impose generic benchmarks as campaign criteria or enforcing their own measurement currency on the buyer. These tactics are destined to fail, because a buyer worth their salt understands their client’s performance drivers far better than the Evaluator.

The role of the Performance Evaluator is to assess whether the buyer is doing a good job or not. To succeed they must be capable of following a campaign’s progress, interventions and intersections in order to report the value the buyer has added or destroyed. Their task is to devise the method and the metrics to determine how much a buyer really contributed to the success of a campaign.

A great evaluation does not stop by reporting whether targets were delivered, it must also show how more value could have been delivered. This requires the Evaluator to absorb and scan multiple lines of data, adopting smart data visualisation and data blending tools to investigate each pocket of influence and make a judgement about whether the right decisions were made or not.

There is no more advantage in scale for your Media Evaluator. As every digital buyer knows, your competitive advantage is achieved by your people, your tools and your processes.

Andy Pearch is Co-Founder of MediaSense, global media advisors helping brands take control of their media.

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