A successful part of the media industry is in danger, despite the fact that clients love the work it does and competition has not increased. In fact, nine out of ten clients call it an "indispensable business partner" – but the threat to its future is real.
The business is media auditing.
Changes in the media market and new trading practices have made auditing for clients more valuable than ever.
Increasingly, however, they are having problems getting access to the data they need.
The World Federation of Advertisers has conducted a survey based on responses from its multinational members that, together, spend $35 billion each year.
From its historic roots in the UK – where about 94 per cent of paid media is audited – the sector has expanded around the world to the point where it is used globally by almost every multinational advertiser, as well as smart local and regional brands.
Generally, the sophistication of auditing services varies considerably by market. This is often a reflection of the data that is available, which restricts what auditors can do. There is an opportunity for these companies to expand further as, for example, just 30 per cent of media is audited in Brazil; and, even in the US and Canada, the data shows penetration of less than 50 per cent of media investment.
The rewards for businesses to work with an auditor – such as Accenture, Ebiquity, EMM and R3, to name just four of the leading companies in this space – is believed to more than compensate for the cost of the services.
Auditors are providing advertisers with new solutions, but there's still plenty of work to be done
Sometimes, however, their work is stymied not by a lack of data but by restrictions on data access, whether by media owners, agencies or both – something that has been a recurring issue in the evolution of trading desks, for example.
Our members have raised serious concerns about restricted access to data in Germany and, more recently, Spain. It is a very worrying trend.
Many of the data challenges relate to digital, which represents a major test of the auditing model. Our survey found that the percentage of digital spend being audited is actually declining in major markets, including the US, Canada and Latin America.
The digital space puts the traditional pool of prices and the benchmark model under pressure. As the range of sites, formats and approaches increases, it can be increasingly difficult to find a genuine and robust like-for-like norm to benchmark against.
New trading platforms such as real-time bidding make this even harder – clearly, it’s impossible to create a pool for media space that is being traded in real time, as it’s a unique and one-time event.
Auditors are increasing their efforts in providing advertisers with new solutions, such as measuring ad visibility, but there’s still plenty of work to be done in regard to digital media investment.
Advertisers need expert advice and oversight that can ensure they receive fair value for their spend. Our members feel media auditors should continue to play a critical role. The accountability they help to provide builds confidence, which, in turn, drives investment. Everyone has a vested interest in making this work.
Stephan Loerke is the managing director of the World Federation of Advertisers