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
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
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
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
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
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.