Yes, You Need To Upgrade How You Audit Your Media Investment

In the timespan of a month, I attended two virtual presentations on the topic of digital advertising and marketing. The first one was organized by ISBA, the U.K. equivalent of the ANA, in collaboration with global media investment analyst firm Ebiquity. The second came courtesy of eMarketer, with support from StackAdapt, one of the leading self-serve programmatic platforms.

While eMarketer focused on delivering an update on all things programmatic, Ebiquity focused on the broader digital advertising marketplace (where programmatic is obviously the 1-million-pound gorilla). Both carried some insightful, and sometimes ominous, data points.

One key recommendation is that media audits are out, while “always on governance” is now mandatory. That does not mean you should stop reviewing your audited media investments on a semi-regular basis. But it does mean you should not wait a quarter or six months for that report. Especially in the digital advertising space (which is pretty much all of today’s media, even TV, audio and outdoor) it is critical to invest serious time and effort into where and when your digital ads will appear, and to keep constant taps on their performance.



You might think “duh” to that last statement. But from experience, I can tell you that many advertisers do not invest enough time and effort into the first part of that message, and even fewer review the outcomes of their efforts on an ongoing basis, with tools in place to govern the investment.

Why is this so shocking? Today, digital display advertising is 90% programmatic, TV is 10% programmatic and out of home already over 15%. And 75% of all programmatic is bought and sold via direct deals, meaning the investment is governed by an agency or hyper-aware advertiser that buys inventory directly rather than via auction. And growth in connected TV placement (CTV advertising allows brands to reach their audience on smart TVs and OTT devices such as Roku) is driving the programmatic direct category.

The second and related recommendation is that your media audit needs to look beyond “just” cost. Cost is, of course, critical. It is important to know how much to spend, and if what you invested supported your intended goals (KPIs). But as we all know, the measurement market is fragmented and siloed, and it is therefore up to you to define a set of metrics to be tracked across your media investment in order to decide if you are getting a decent ROI.

Ebiquity recommends a dashboard of criteria that could include elements such as brand health, brand salience, media quality, etc. Which metrics make sense will depend on advertiser and campaign intent. A simple cost vs delivery assessment won’t cut it anymore, especially when done only once every quarter or six months.

One other finding was that the so-called ad-tech tax is slowly decreasing, but still stands at “40% of total real-time bidding digital display ad spending through at least 2024,” per eMarketer. This means that of every dollar invested in digital display, bought via real-time bidding, 40 cents is spent on paying ad-tech middlemen. Add to this the inevitability of some of these dollars going to waste because of fraud or tech mismanagement, and we must conclude a vast amount of money you spend on digital advertising is still not working toward getting the message to consumers about your product or service.

All the more reason to be vigilant in updating your governance.

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