Major media agencies reach united stance over audits

Agency association publishes guidelines for clients auditing media spend, though admits lack of consensus with auditors.

Media buying groups have agreed to auditing guidelines.
Media buying groups have agreed to auditing guidelines.

The six top media agency groups have backed a document seen as a first step towards a cross-industry code of conduct on media auditing after years of impasse.

A best practice guide to the audit process for advertisers and agencies, Media Auditing Guidelines, has been published by the European Association of Communication Agencies (EACA), of which GroupM, Omnicom Media Group, Publicis Groupe, Mediabrands, Dentsu and Havas are members.

The guidelines were drawn up by an EACA taskforce led by Nicolas Grand, SVP of transformation at Omnicom Media Group.

However, auditors have not endorsed the guidelines, Grand said, despite them having had input into the process alongside the World Federation of Advertisers.

“We felt we couldn’t arrive at a consensus with auditors that could have allowed them to endorse the document,” he said. “However their collaboration during the process has been invaluable and much appreciated.

“Hopefully in the future this can lead to the wider industry adopting a ‘code of conduct’ that would be acceptable by both agencies and auditors. In the meantime, we feel these newly published guidelines represent a step in the right direction, and are an industry first.”

The guidelines (see below) cover topics including consistent and evidenced capabilities, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, transparency provisions and respecting contractual agreements between agencies, media owners and technology suppliers.

Parts of the industry previously expressed concerns about confidentiality and conflicts of interest in media auditors that also provide additional marketing and communications services.

Earlier discussions between media agencies and media auditors broke down in 2017 due to auditors resisting signing NDAs and “Accenture being the elephant in the room with their perceived conflict of interest” according to Grand.

“Fast forward to 2021, Accenture no longer operates a media auditing business [as Campaign reported in February 2020], and most auditors have NDAs in place with agencies,” he added.

Balazs Kaposi, the global head of investment at Dentsu, said: “As the industry evolves, so does the need for more sophisticated measurement processes, and advertisers are expecting their partners to provide them with the appropriate insight and guidance for their investment decisions.”

The Media Auditing Guidelines cover the following topics:

  1. Consistent and evidenced capabilities: media auditors’ geographic footprint; demonstrated expertise.

  2. Confidentiality guarantees: Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs); exclusive use of data for given project; data integrity and protection.

  3. Conflicts of interest: upfront disclosure; adequate business separation; objective remuneration models.

  4. Respect for agencies’ contractual obligations with media and technology suppliers

  5. Upfront alignment on timelines and scope: collaborative discussions considering impact of auditors’ requests on media agencies’ resources.

  6. Transparency on auditors’ calculations and fairness in comparing datasets

  7. Transparency to advertisers and agencies on pool composition: to ensure relevant and robust benchmarks for advertisers.

  8. Fair pitch process: with clear, relevant, and transparent pitch pricing templates


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