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When we think of an audit, we think of an in-depth examination of something by an independent body, resulting in findings or conclusions which are concrete, specific, black-and-white.  The same expectation should hold true for a media audit.  The findings should be definitive and actionable.  Yes, there might be context to the findings, but they should not be … negotiable.  What we sometimes see in initial assignments, however, is that gaps in documentation (of expectations, agreements, commitments) throughout the process lead to a certain level of ambiguity.

The good news is that in these cases, we are able to work with clients, their agencies, and their vendors to connect the dots so that expectations and obligations are clear cut, specific and well documented.  This drives accountability and transparency in your partnerships, and leads to media audit findings that drive continuous value to your organization.How do you identify these missing links in your media supply chain?

Supply Chain Gaps

What do you want and need from your media buys to drive your business?  Are these expectations well documented with your agency?  Are you made aware of any discrepancies between your goals and what the media buyers are able to execute in the marketplace?  In addition to an assessment of delivery, cost performance and compliance, a media audit will demonstrate whether you have proper governance and controls over this huge investment area.

If the full media supply chain is linked from advertiser to agency to media property, there will be specific, concrete audit results and clear resolution plans.  Your board, franchisees, dealers, internal audits group, or simply your immediate supervisor will be pleased to hear the findings, the agency will have easily addressed outstanding items, and the action plans will help further improve productivity.

However, all too often early audits reveal “leakage” throughout the supply chain resulting in some large monetary values at risk or even lost.  Gaps in documentation and accountability, or broken links in the chain, will limit the ability to resolve the findings in a black-and-white manner.   The resolution phase can spiral quickly into a deliberation over the responsible party, the metrics themselves, and (when applicable) the amount of restitution one party owes another.

Below is a listing of some commonly debated TV audit findings and the supply chain gaps that create the “grey” areas that may become subject to negotiation.


Improving Linkage Throughout The Media Process

So, how do you keep your assessment from becoming a negotiation?First, be the advocate for your company’s budgets.  You are the customer of the agency and of the media properties.  The media supply chain is long and complex, and it involves many people (with frequent turnover).  Make sure you have good documentation of expectations and consequences for deviations throughout.  Define what it takes for your agency and media property partners to get an “A+” working for your brand.  Importantly, define specific parameters for “performance” and concrete policies for recovery or restitution of any “non-performance”.

If you do not have the media expertise on staff to handle this process, outsource it to a neutral, qualified third party.  But make it a priority.  There is real money associated with these gaps.  Close them.

You have clear, defined expectations, and you will be reviewing performance against them on an ongoing basis.  You will be expecting compensation for non-performance.  Period.Second, use media audits as a tool for learning and continuous improvement, and reinforce this objective with your agency partners.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves to provide actionable findings that demonstrate return on investment.  However, sometimes the best action plan is to look forward and make sure there are controls and linkage throughout the supply chain for future buys in order to assure that marketplace execution fully meets (and protects) advertiser expectations.

A great media audit with minimal recovery owed (or multiple great consecutive audits) still provides tremendous value to an organization – by communicating to key stakeholders that this investment is being made carefully and responsibly.  Advertisers that invest the effort to assure that all of the potential gaps in the supply chain have been closed beforehand don’t have to spend time negotiating with agencies and suppliers after the fact.  Everyone understands the expectations, and so there’s nothing to negotiate.

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