Confessions of a media auditor: ‘Agencies often manipulate the numbers’

In the scramble to prove digital advertising works, some legacy performance measurement systems used for traditional media auditing were retrofitted for digital. That’s produced “catastrophic” results for both brand advertisers and publishers, according to a media auditor executive.

This senior exec, who has also worked for many years on the agency side, believes media auditing needs a makeover and is frustrated that advertisers still pay through the nose for what they’re told are robust data benchmarks. Here are some excerpts.

What’s a media audit pool?
Media auditors collect from media agencies the data of a particular client [or clients] they’re contracted to work with. That data is put into an anonymous pool, with other similar client data. Each client gets compared against that data pool, and people look for like-for-like comparisons to give an idea of how a client is performing compared to the rest of the market. Typically, you’d speak with the agency to prepare them for the results, and that’s when the discussions start and where it ultimately becomes a negotiation of what the results are, and that’s usually whatever reflects the agency’s performance in the best light.

Why is this a big deal?
It’s an old practice that shouldn’t be happening anymore now that the [digital] media market is so complicated. These antiquated pooling processes have been applied to digital with catastrophic effects, with media auditors claiming they have a pool for digital, for programmatic.

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