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Whenever I attend an industry conference or workshop, I know that I can count on at least one presenter leading off with the famous John Wanamaker quote:  “Half my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”  It’s like clockwork, really.  Money in the bank.  The words in the quote actually change a bit from one presentation to the next, although they always manage to capture the spirit of it.  I keep waiting for someone to misattribute it to Mark Twain or William Shakespeare or Winston Churchill, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Given how cliché it has become to lead with that quote, I certainly would never do it.  Although actually, I suppose I already have.  And why not?  It works perfectly with my topic (as it does with so many others).

Waste has generally been inherent in advertising.  Advertising without waste is the holy grail of paid media.  This is precisely why we continually see so much excitement (and investment) around things like programmatic, addressable, location based, retargeting, shelf beacons, data management platforms and related ad tech, etc.  As an advertiser, the idea of delivering your message to the right person, in the right place, at the right time – and to no one else, nowhere else, at no other time – is understandably compelling.

But what about assuring that the media that your organization pays for fully delivers on the agreement in place with the seller (and with the paid agents working on your company’s behalf) and identifying areas to improve accountability moving forward?  This is essentially the outcome of a good media audit.

Media audit Findings That Matter are – above all else – four things:

  1. Actionable
  2. Quantifiable
  3. Irrefutable
  4. Additive


In a media audit, Findings That Matter lead to action.  They drive recovery of lost value, better documentation, heightened transparency, and improved performance.  They arm a client and its agency with specific information from a qualified, third party that can be acted upon to drive value that might otherwise have been lost.Providing actionable insights requires that a media audit firm possess a deep understanding of the media supply chain in the markets it serves.  Findings which are actionable in some parts of the world are not in the U.S. – and vice-versa.


Findings That Matter in a media audit are findings that can be quantified.  This means the auditor has full access to requisite measurement data and the ability to efficiently process 100% of a buy at an individual occurrence level.  No sampling.  No projections, estimates, or modeling (beyond the third party measurement and cost data itself, which in many cases is already modeled in some industry accepted and/or accredited fashion).

A media audit should provide precise accountings of payment, delivery, and compliance.  If there are gaps in these areas, they are calculated and clearly communicated.  Performance can be assessed over time, because for each discrete time period there are measurable and comparable KPIs in place.


Media audit Findings That Matter are 100% fact-based, and thereby they cannot be reasonably contested.  They are derived from the client’s actual data, at the individual occurrence level.  The entire data set is included.  There can thus be no question as to whether the findings are actionable or projectable.

Ideally, audit Findings That Matter are based upon agreed 3rd party research and methodology that is completely transparent – conducted independently by the expert, neutral audit provider.  KPI’s are reported on areas which represent known, understood and (hopefully) documented expectations between client, agency and media vendor.

This is not to suggest that there are never questions or discussions regarding audit findings, even on audits conducted under what we would consider to be ideal conditions.  Ultimately, though, in an audit that is fact-based, exhaustive, and transparent – the findings prove to be black and white (regardless of extenuating circumstances or other relevant context).


At those industry conferences and workshops, in addition to the Wannamaker quote, you can usually count on at least one presenter showing one of the now-infamous Lumascape slides to reiterate the complexity of the media ecosystem.  Sometimes it’s the same person who uses the Wannamaker quote, and sometimes it’s someone entirely different.

As with the Wannamaker quote, the reason the Lumascapes are so popular in this forum is that they make the point perfectly.  People get it.  The paid media supply chain has become staggeringly complex.  More media channels, more data providers, more content delivery systems, more analytics.  Just a lot more of everything, really.A good media audit makes sense of things.  It provides complex analyses that are beyond the expertise, capacity or normal purview of your current staff – and does so in a format that is meaningful and easy to understand.  You receive reporting on performance or compliance that your agency and vendors don’t do, can’t do and/or shouldn’t be doing on themselves (for credibility’s sake).  A good media audit provides actionable insights and confirmation of performance (or identification of non-performance) that should only come from an expert, neutral third party.

What are media audit findings that might not matter?

Media audit findings and deliverables are often defined by the provider of those services, or sometimes by the clients procuring them, or even on occasion (surprisingly) by the agency being audited.  In some cases providers are limited by their own lack of expertise, automation, or access to sometimes-costly research.  In those cases, the findings may not tie back to the actual media transactions upon which the audit is purportedly based.  

Not Actionable.

In some cases “insights” which are indeed interesting and perhaps even thought-provoking provide no measureable value.  You had 10% more TRPs on Fox this year than last year.  You had 5% more TRPs in Daytime than your nearest competitor.  Your cable networks had a higher composition of your target audience this year than last year.  Fascinating, but in terms of value ...  

Not Quantifiable.

Media audit deliverables may be filtered through a supplier’s world view, which may in fact not be applicable to the way that media is transacted in the U.S.  Complex, murky “scores” based on factors identified by the audit firm (presumably based on the metrics they have available to them – which may or may not have any actionable value to the client) are an example of findings that just might not matter.  Cost observations based on mysterious, proprietary and non-projectable cost pools are another.  

Not Irrefutable.

Competitive “insights” may be of value, but do they need to come from an audit firm?  Are they part of your agency’s scope of work?  Ditto rankings of top stations, networks, or programs included on your buys.  You don’t need an expert third party to deliver that information.

Not Additive.

Which Kind of Findings Do You Want?

Media audit Findings That Matter provide your organization with something of value (Actionable, Quantifiable, Irrefutable, Additive) that you would not have received otherwise.  You can literally use Findings That Matter to generate value for your organization … and to demonstrate value for your team within your organization.

In advertising, part of eliminating waste is smart strategy, planning and execution.  Part of it, though, is also confirming afterwards that you got what you paid for.  If you really want to know which half of your advertising is wasted, a good audit firm and media audit Findings That Matter are a great place to start.

Speaking of good media audit firms, if your company is interested in Findings That Matter, contact us for more information.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “Keep Your Media Audit From Becoming a Negotiation”.

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