You’ve heard of media in a business context; it’s the broad category that includes TV spots, print ads and online video marketing, but you might not understand how to assess its worth to your business.

    With advertising and marketing agency trust at an all time low, how can you be sure you be sure you are spending money that is making you money? Here is how.

    What a media audit is and why it is crucial for businesses

    A media audit is an analysis of the quality and pricing of the media bought by the media agency used by a business. This acts as a check on the media agencies by assessing their performance. This helps to ensure that businesses are using media in the right way and that they are buying at the best price.

    This is becoming increasingly crucial, not only because media spend is typically the largest line-item in the marketing budget, but with recent research suggesting that using agencies alone may not be the best idea for your business. A survey by independent media agency, Infectious Media, revealed that 53% of the marketers felt that media agencies are ‘untrustworthy’ and that 74% felt agencies don’t fully report financial data, amongst other damning findings.

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    By using a media audit to scrutinise media agency performance, these potential pitfalls of agencies can be eradicated.  Media audits do this in a number of ways. One way is through setting incentive based KPI’s that set clear targets for the agencies to motivate them to work effectively.  Another is to ensure an efficient working process of media agencies, such as by clearly defining their scope of work, team roles and responsibilities.

    Scaling a business requires careful ROI analysis

    The overarching benefit for effective media performance is better ROI from your media investment. By analysing the value of the media services you use, media audits will ensure that you can get the greatest ROI on media spend as possible. A number of different services carried out by media audits can help achieve this.

    One way to ensure better ROI for media investment is determining an effective media strategy for a business with audience profiling. To carry this out, media audits will define the target audience of that company and decide what type of media they should be using accordingly. For example, if they are aiming at a younger audience, they may want to focus on online engagement rather than traditional marketing via methods like billboards or newspapers. They will also look at competitors to help determine this strategy.

    Media audits will also examine the pricing and budget for the media used by the company. They will advise on overall media investment, like what budget needs to be spent where and where costs can be cut. They then overall evaluate media cost and quality against targets and the previous year results, using benchmarking criteria. This again ensures businesses achieve better ROI and also helps them to accurately work out their profit projections for each year.

    Outsource your media auditing unless you are an expert

    It is recommended for the majority of companies you outsource your media auditing. Finding local costs, liaising between you and an agency and having objectivity for your media spending is usually better served through a third party. In addition, in order to help you understand how media agencies go about their work and how exactly the industry works, many media audit services also offer media training as part of their service. This means that you won’t feel out of the loop.

    However, you don’t need to hire full time experts. Rather quarterly or annual audits are suggested through 3rd party companies. Only the largest companies will benefit from continuous media auditing, a high profile examples of this would be Airbnb hiring former Unilever marketer Geoff Seeley as their media director, although even he is still working alongside agency partners and independent data auditors.

    Those in these type of roles oversee media spending and internal controls, giving their companies direct access to how they are spending their money on media. As well as employing people that are already trained in media spending, many companies have even taken the step of developing current employers if they are seen to have suitable skills for the role.

    However, these moves may not be realistic or financially prudent for all companies. For many companies it makes more sense to outsource their media auditing.