Cut me open and I’ll bleed auditing. It’s a business I’ve worked in for 17 years. And despite that history at Ebiquity, PJL Media and now ID Comms Assurance I know that our industry needs to change radically.
Because if we don’t, we’ll become less relevant, less useful and ultimately less employed. Like the businesses we serve, we have been disrupted by digital and dramatic changes in consumer behavior.
There are a host of reasons that are driving change in our sector but the principle ones are that the product of traditional auditing is too dull and backward looking.
The next generation audit needs to be three things: It needs to be faster, smarter and actionable. In a media world that moves quicker than ever, relevance is the key to make sure that the audit reports actually make it to the CMO, that they actually inform the strategic advice that the media and marketing team feeds back to the strategists and planners.
That’s a radical change from what came before. When auditing was first introduced in the US we set out to demonstrate to our clients that we were serious people, providing a solid product.
The typical audit report delivery was also not a crowd-pleaser. Designed to impress with analysis quantity, it often made the audience think that the underlying remuneration model paid the audit firm by the slide.
That approach continues to this day.
Another side of that culture is that auditing was isolated. Reports were developed and judgements were made with minimal dialogue with the agency. The auditor at arms-length, with limited time spent understanding campaign strategy or trying to engage those that planned and executed the buy, would provide a verdict on performance.
All of this has to change. To be relevant the next generation of auditing will have to provide three new elements for advertisers:
First, they will have to understand more about the underlying campaign strategies being audited. That means having a dialogue with the agencies involved based on mutual participation as well as a willingness to learn more, improve together and achieve competitive advantage for the advertiser.
Only then will the auditor be able to provide clear insights that are calibrated with a deep understanding of the objectives and strategies.
Second, they will have to extract meaning from the numbers. With apologies to Rishad Tobaccowala (Re-Inventing by @Rishad), “meaning from math” should be the goal of every audit. The data is not the insight and the ‘score’ is not particularly revealing (increasingly less so in a highly fragmented media landscape). The meaning must resonate so that relevant actions flow naturally.
Third, Next Gen audits need to simplify and focus only on the most meaningful insights and actions. We all know that less can be more and this has never been truer than in media performance analysis. The wisdom in the audit report is more likely to be actioned if the key points can be reduced to a single side of A4. The data behind those points should be available to analyze but we can no longer leave it to the client to work out what they should do with our numbers.
People simply have a comprehension limit and it gets pushed every day from a myriad of information sources. Our whole industry needs to simplify and focus for better understanding.
With the departure of Accenture Media from the auditing landscape many advertisers are reviewing their approach in this area. They can opt for more of the same, auditing as a tick box exercise, or they can think about what would make auditing relevant for 2020 and beyond.