How benchmarking can boost a client's business

Two media auditors explain how they are helping brands to maintain best practice by focusing on performance and not just price.

MIKE ELEY partner, Fairbrother Lenz Eley

- How do you benchmark the performance of your clients?

Benchmarking forms part of a dynamic process, not simply tick-and-cross reporting. Our methodology is based on agreeing areas for evaluation in conjunction with each client and in advance of activity, from which metrics are developed across the media spectrum. Broadly, we are interested in external and internal references - translating into performance tracking against market norms, linked to customised measurement against historical attainments. Specifically, this means evaluation of media agency planning and buying competitiveness on behalf of our clients, together with analysis of media campaigns linked to marketing and advertising objectives.

- Does benchmarking actually improve a client's business?

The true value of benchmarking lies in its role as catalyst, whereby key metrics feed into an overarching programme of improvement. The discipline of measurement allows a company to establish exactly where it stands. Without such knowledge, quantification of improvement is impossible. However, dynamic benchmarking also identifies where and how gains might be forged and is central to FLE's philosophy that evaluation is a tool for encouraging best-in-class planning and buying, not an end in itself.

- What is the most important aspect to measure and why?

An increasingly important question as the scope of benchmarking expands - and the number of media budget stakeholders increases across marketing and procurement. Hard yards at the outset are essential in determining measurement priorities, while the reporting challenge is to provide a clear, holistic view of performance based on a range of parameters - great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

- Explain your business model.

FLE's business model is simple. We generate fee income from advertisers, derived from the value of consultancy support across the media cycle and provision of robust benchmarking. This framework has stood the test of time, but the mechanics undergo continuous refinement in light of radical changes within the world of communications planning and media trading.

- What is the role of data in the process?

Data plays a central role, whether in terms of media consumption patterns, campaign tracking or nuances of placement. There is widespread sentiment that media experts thrive on an opaqueness that only numbers and acronyms in combination can generate. Data deluge presents an increasing challenge for advertisers and agencies - with a concomitant risk that the detail is ignored. We provide clients with expertise, intelligence and time in pursuit of translating data into coherent narrative, together with informed delineation of the next chapter.

- What's the future of this market and what are you doing to give your clients a competitive advantage?

Dominant trends in marketing and communications - global, digital and social - within the context of ferocious pace of change, inevitably define the future. Companies need strong guidance in navigating a path in this age of complexity, particularly in creating a modern architecture that engenders greater agility in campaign management and benchmarking. FLE has the wit and wisdom to provide clients with insight and solutions for market-leading performance.

HENRY ROWE co-founder and director, FaR Partners

- How do you benchmark the performance of your clients?

The fundamental of our approach to the media market is that "performance" now means so much more than "price". We entered the media owner assessment market with no legacy approaches or baggage and we created a new product that analyses every aspect of business success. We analyse, score and benchmark everything from the use of technology, data monetisation strategies, sales propositions and agency trading, right through to the use of consumer insight and the development of creative solutions. We collect data from our Media Agency Panel, we compare it to our Pool and we show our clients how they perform in market.

- Does benchmarking actually improve a client's business?

Absolutely! Benchmarking can make a fundamental difference to a client's business if two things happen. First, the benchmarking needs to assess and analyse all the parts of the operation that contribute to business success. Second, benchmarking performance highlights the issues and opportunities - it's what you do that with the insight that makes the difference. Benchmarking shows you what to change, not how to change it.

- What is the most important aspect to measure and why?

For media owners, the most important thing to measure is everything! Significant and permanent changes in the media market such as media commoditisation, advertising exchanges, data monetisation and social media mean that we are genuinely seeing a paradigm shift in how advertisers and media agencies value and assess media owners. Only by looking at all aspects of business performance can you really understand how to structure and position your business in the digital landscape.

- Explain your business model.

We have built FaR as a "benchmarking and revenue generation" business. Our "Media Owner Tracker" tool is unique as it assesses 200 criteria within a media owner's business, giving qualitative and quantitative insights. This 360-degree view of business performance and position in market allows us to develop business plans for our clients that maximise their revenue from the digital economy.

- What is the role of data in the process?

Just as it is for our clients, high-quality data is essential for high-quality insights. We use data from our own Panel and our FaR comparison Pool to ensure our performance benchmarking is built on the data that can inform real business insight. Creating apps and tools that analyse the insights from this data is the key to our business.

- What's the future of this market and what are you doing to give your clients a competitive advantage?

The future for the media owner benchmarking market is being a true business partner for clients. Single revenue stream media businesses need to digitise their operations, and that often means fundamental changes to their business model and a movement to data-driven multiple revenue stream offerings. The changes in the market make headline media sales prices increasingly irrelevant and the opening of new revenue streams essential. Our work provides a competitive advantage by providing a business model for the digital age.

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