Why Media Audits Are a Good Thing

Question and Answer with media auditing pioneer Stephen White, founder of EMM, London, Eng. Why audits are crucial to Managing Risk and Accountability

Stephen White, who set up his media auditing firm, EMM (Effective Media Management),over a decade ago to evaluate, benchmark, and monitor advertisers’ media investments, believes that as media becomes more complex, “there is absolutely no chance that agencies [should be] involved in “marking their own homework.

“Independent evaluation and scrutiny is demanded by advertisers,” he says, “and from that standpoint there can be no role for the agencies other than delivering great media clic results.”

White knows what life is like on the agency side; after beginning his career as a trainee at Unilever, he worked at McCann-Erickson in both Europe and New York. And prior to EMM, White was a director of Aegis Group. In addition to its London headquarters, EMM has offices in New York – where it manages its U.S. and Canadian business – as well as Miami, Singapore, and Dubai.

Media auditing has been an accepted practice in the U.K. for 25 years and today 55% of all consumer media expenditures in that country are audited. Penetration of the service has been slower in North America, but White says the WorldCom, ENRON and Parmalat fiascos have made independent scrutiny of financial transactions pick up steam.

There is some media auditing taking place in Canada, but it has been mainly conducted by in-house auditors or firms such as KPMG. The U.S. is taking the same approach as Europe and using third-party companies that include EMM and another U.K.-based auditor, Billetts Media Performance Monitor America.

White recently addressed the fact and fiction of media auditing with MIC:

Q: Why should advertisers invest in media auditing?

A: Let me try to tackle a fundamental misunderstanding that seems to prevail in North America regarding the role of media auditors. We are not spot checkers – although that is part of our service – but high quality media management processors who act as a surrogate media department for many international advertisers.

The confirmation of ensuring the advertiser is getting what they paid for only accounts for 25% of our fees. The rest is spent on overall effectiveness and efficiency benchmarking. Proper media management that embraces media evaluation programs later will deliver an average ROI of 20 to 30 times our fees.

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