Brand owners place media buys under scrutiny

31 May 2010
BRUSSELS: Many brand owners in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America are now using auditors to assess their media buying, a process that has been more successful for traditional than digital channels.

The World Federation of Advertisers, the industry body, conducted a survey of its members in these three regions in December 2009 in order to gain an understanding of their activity in this area.

Some 36 companies, boasting a combined annual global expenditure of around $40bn (€32.2bn; £27.5bn), were represented in the results.

Nearly all of the featured organisations based in Europe employed media auditors, which can analyse both the performance of media buying agencies and the executions provided by media owners.

This compared with 57% of corporations in Asia Pacific and 50% of their Latin American counterparts, although both regional totals are expected to increase going forwards.

"The rise of media auditing has been accelerated by economic uncertainty and looks set to continue to grow around the world," said Stephan Loerke, managing director of the WFA.

Overall, 95% of the WFA's European panel believed this process offered good value for money, an increase from 86% in a similar study in 2008.

However, only 21% of these firms gave equally positive feedback when appraising the experience of their media auditors relating to digital media.

Satisfaction levels stood at 64% in Asia Pacific and 56% in Latin America, where 55% and 50% of participants respectively also agreed that "pools are too small for larger advertisers".

"It's clear that media auditing is an increasingly useful asset for marketers," Rahul Welde, Unilever's vp, media in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Turkey, said.

"However standards in some regions, and certain media, still have a great deal of room for improvement."

In a bid to assist companies that are seeking to appoint media auditors, the WFA partnered with the European Association of Communication Agencies to produce a series of best practice guidelines.

Obvious factors like the reputation, integrity and experience of potential auditing partners need to be considered alongside their expertise in different sectors, geographies and media types.

Auditors should also provide a detailed breakdown of the professional credentials of the staff who will be working on each account, and clearly identify how they have reached their conclusions.

Remuneration for media auditors should also be kept separate from the actual results of the media buying process, and a clear breakdown of data ownership established early on in any relationship.

While brand owners could ask their agencies for some assistance in the selection process, the WFA/EACA study also stated that making the final choice should be the "exclusive role" of the client.

The full WFA Guide to Choosing and Using a Media Auditor is available here.

While not statistically relevant, the findings drawn from the survey are indicative of the thoughts and actions of the large multinational marketers in the WFA's Membership.

Data sourced from World Federation of Advertisers; additional content by Warc staff
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