Price-based media auditing is dead, so what's going to rise from the ashes?

As media agencies and adtech companies rush to grapple with the new landscape, who holds them to account, asks Jamie Venerus, Founder of Beta Firinn.

Jamie Venerus, Beta Firinn



COVID-19, Trump, BLM, Netflix, Disney+, lockdown, Boris, the death of cinema, the rise of streaming, 5G, retail transformation, furlough, creative destruction, new economies.

The media we consume, how we consume it, and why we consume it has all changed, fundamentally and for ever.

As media agencies and adtech companies rush to grapple with the new landscape, who holds them to account?

Commentators have been predicting the death of the traditional media audit for some time. In 2018 a WFA report found 73% of clients agreed auditing need to move away from price-based judgements. And it’s safe to say COVID has hammered the final nail in its coffin. With trends towards on-demand, subscription-based services exacerbated by months of lockdown-induced binge-watching, traditional media, and the traditional price-based method of auditing media spend, is less relevant than ever before.

So, where do we go from here? It’s all very well saying traditional ‘price’ media auditing is dead but what’s going to rise from the ashes? An unaudited £20bn-a-year industry is a terrifying prospect. No wonder the WFA has called for more independent regulation, just as former big player Accenture exited the scene back in February.

The traditional price media audit has to make way for a more tailored and bespoke process.

Jamie Venerus

Brands aren’t getting the best out of media audits

Those of us on the inside have known for a long time that brands just aren’t getting the best out of their media audits. We’ve sat through audits on different brands, at different agencies, with different auditors, wondering why they were only looking at price paid.

These price audits added little or no value to the brand per se and gave no direction to potential performance or future planning. They provided a bit of price reassurance, which is fair enough but to us, this completely missed the point.

Media pricing hasn’t been a competitive differentiator for many years. Business outcomes like sales, market share, better margins and so on aren’t driven by media pricing, they are driven by effectiveness gains. And effectiveness, as Binet & Field, Ritson, Sharp et al will tell you, is a direct function of the quality of strategy, planning and implementation in the media plan.

This is where our audit can add real value. In fact, it’s my estimate, based on robust calculations, that by looking at the right metrics you can boost the effectiveness of a media spend of £15m by more than £1m, at speed.

Inspired media planning, strategy & implementation 

Inspired media planning, strategy and implementation is one of the few true competitive advantages left for brands. Take customer insight, for example, a consistent, coherent and simple statement that is easily understood and creates, or refreshes, consumer memory. A campaign can sink, or swim based on this crucial input and it has nothing to do with price paid.

Experience and empathy are also a predictor of high performance. How often do media planners move out of the London agency bubble and into their client’s stores, offices or factories to experience the product or service? What about the other types of media, owned and earned; is that in sync with paid? Is the whole ecosystem optimised to drive hard business outcomes? This may involve bringing together several teams from across media, creative, PR, content and in-house sectors.

The traditional price media audit has to make way for a more tailored and bespoke process. At Beta Firinn our proprietary approach considers 100 high impact factors, to help brands make the most of their media spend through effectiveness gains. It’s based on the best available research and science, combined with years of best practice, award wins, and experience.

Some of these may sound a little ‘out there’. What do typos, for example, have to do with media effectiveness? In our experience typos in the media plan often indicate an ‘early warning’ system that junior staff members without proper training and supervision are creating your media plan, as well as delivering it. Without quality control, mistakes run rife. For your average £1m a month media campaign the cost in time of dealing with mistakes and queries from the media team can quickly rack up to the salary of several brand managers or a CMO. Put that way, it’s a bit more than just an overzealous approach to numbers and grammar.

There is a reason some brands are more successful than others; there is a reason why some media campaigns produce better results than others. The reason isn't luck or good timing; the reason isn't the product category, or great leaps in creativity or innovation. The reason is great planning work. They knew what they wanted to achieve, and they figured out how to achieve it.

Guest Author

Jamie Venerus, Beta Firinn



Jamie is Managing Director and Founder of Beta Firinn. Before creating Beta Firinn Jamie held positions at MediaCom, MindShare, and Maxus. He has more than 20 years of experience in media and has picked up numerous effectiveness awards and accolades.

Related Tags