Online Process Audit - Can You Pass the Test?

Recently, a major corporation inquired about services related to auditing their various agencies and their performance in online media. The media process audit is common in other media, and having helped to develop the category in the early 80’s, we are very familiar with all aspects of this kind of work.

It got us thinking. What should be included in an online process audit? And, once we put down the outline, we started asking if we ourselves could pass the audit for our own Interactive buying? Good intentions are one thing, but creating a paper trail that meets industry standards is another. So here is the challenge of the day. Can your Interactive planning and buying operation measure up to the following?

Do you have clear media objectives?

Do you have written plans, including specific goals, whether they are DR or branding?

  • Are the goals quantified?
  • Do you issue post analyses reports tying back to the goals?

    Do you have written buying guidelines (timing, geography, sites to avoid, other restrictions)?

  • Do you have a system in place to verify that the buyer met the guidelines?



    Do you have written authorization from the client to place the specific buys?

  • Are these authorizations updated when you make buy changes?

    Do you issue schedules to the client showing what sites that they are going to be on and for what duration?

  • Are these schedules revised as IO’s are revised?

    Do you have site signed Terms & Conditions supporting the schedules, or if you are going with vendor Ts & Cs, are the vendor Ts & Cs consistent with your master client agreement relative to issues such as privacy, data ownership and liability among others? (This is a major gotcha for many agencies as the buyer signing a site’s Ts & Cs has probably never seen their master client agreement.)

  • Do the Ts & Cs outline clear agreement on ad serving and counting impressions relative to Distribution, Delivery and Counting methodology?
  • If the sites are serving the ads, are there periodic technology audits of the actual counting methodologies used and whether they are comparable from site to site and consistent with industry standards?
  • Is there a clear makegood policy relative to timeliness?
  • Is there agreement on whether there will be credits issued if timeliness is not met?
  • Is the site required to bill on a timely basis? Do you have a cut-off in writing beyond which date you will not pay for activity if not billed?

    Do you have a regular reporting schedule to the client? Is it met on a timely basis?

  • Are you optimizing the schedule as often as you should be?

    Is your invoice system tied in to your authorization and IO system so that the client gets clear, detailed invoicing up front consistent with the schedule document that they have?

  • Are invoices from the vendors entered into the same housekeeping system that holds your authorizations and IO’s, making for a seamless audit trail of the transaction?
  • Does your housekeeping system regularly collect and issue credits to the clients as earned?

    For email efforts, are you doing all you can do relative to various lists purchases to determine potential duplication between lists?

    I am interested in other factors that should be on this list, so use the SPIN board and fire away. I recognize that all of the above is pretty basic. But it is clearly worthwhile to “look under the hood” from time to time to ensure that you are running a clean and above board operation. One of the many lessons from Enron is that the outside auditors are not catching everything that they should be. The media audit business is growing. Seldom does a client employ a media auditor that does not pay for itself. It is only a matter of time before the traditional media audit is extended to the Interactive space. Will you be ready?

  • Next story loading loading..