SPOTLIGHT ON: MEDIA AUDITING - Can auditing be accurate if it is carried out internationally? Alasdair Reid on the rising trend for assessing media across different countries

Media auditing has always seemed a very British pursuit. Our TV market has, until recently, been underdeveloped in comparison with other major ad markets. When ITV monopolised airtime sales, it was important to know how well you were performing against your competitors. Surely this isn’t a problem elsewhere?

Media auditing has always seemed a very British pursuit. Our TV

market has, until recently, been underdeveloped in comparison with other

major ad markets. When ITV monopolised airtime sales, it was important

to know how well you were performing against your competitors. Surely

this isn’t a problem elsewhere?



When those in the business say our media auditing market is the most

advanced in the world, you suspect what they’re really saying is that

it’s the only such market.



Apparently not, as the promotion of John Storey at Media Audits last

week illustrates. Storey, previously the joint managing director of

Media Audits UK, became the group managing director overseeing the

European network (Campaign, 9 January). The company has offices in

France, Spain, the Netherlands and Eire - one of Storey’s first tasks

will be to open new offices where appropriate.



International auditing is big business and Storey’s appointment reflects

the fact it is entering a new growth phase. It has been driven by the

increasing trend for larger clients to become more international in

their perspective - local operating units may still have a degree of

autonomy, but they now tend to be co-ordinated at a regional or even

worldwide level.



Media Audits has followed that trend, offering to shadow media networks

across Europe, and it now takes more revenue outside the UK than it does

within. But surely it’s impossible to compare media planning and buying

performance in, say, the UK and Spain? Aren’t they two different markets

with different criteria?



Of course, Storey agrees, and that’s one reason for having offices in

each country. But it also misses the point. The idea isn’t to make

direct comparisons but to find benchmarks appropriate to each country

and assess performance within the same peer group of advertisers in each

market. If you are top of the media-value league table in the UK and

tenth in Spain, something is wrong. ’We are all about putting best

practice first,’ Storey says.



In the UK, media auditors are widely credited with accelerating the

trend towards media centralisation. They came up with the numbers, the

incontrovertible proof that economies of scale and media buying clout

really can make a difference. Clients bought the argument in a big

way.



Will this happen on a Europe-wide basis? Many multinational advertisers

have appointed media buying companies on a network basis. Will auditors

now accelerate the trend towards international centralisation?



The reverse might be true. Despite what they’d like us to believe, most

big buying networks are very patchy. Advertisers are sometimes willing

to overlook the odd bit of ragged performance, provided they can keep

their agency arrangements tidy. Now the weak links will have less chance

to hide.



Storey admits it is possible: ’A huge agency network might only have a

Portakabin in Austria. It’s our job to point that out. We might suggest

alternatives to the client but we are there for agencies too. We can

help them identify problems and help them change what needs to be

changed.’



Need media networks worry? Last week, Zenith Media picked up the

centralised global media planning and buying for the French telecoms

giant, Alcatel Alsthom. The business could be worth up to pounds 100

million this year. Will that sort of account be increasingly hard to win

or retain?



Steve King, the chief executive of Zenith Europe, Middle East and

Africa, argues more scrutiny will be good for the industry. ’We

certainly don’t fear it. If we set our stall out and are confident in

our abilities, nothing can give us a better recommendation than an

independent auditor,’ he argues.



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