Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Auditing risk in media

Published Apr 28, 2018 01:54pm
The importance of instituting independent media audits as a means to manage risk and ensure transparency.
Illustration by Rohail Safdar
Illustration by Rohail Safdar

Pakistan’s media landscape has evolved tremendously in the last decade, with some experts maintaining that it is saturated, while others are still seeking the opportunity to launch more consumer contact points.

This evolution has been well-managed by the Pakistan Advertisers Society through its efforts to acquire data for better media planning and buying. The introduction of the Peoplemeter software-based media tracking systems and the Consumer Multimedia Index by MEMRB, as well as research initiatives by Nielsen Pakistan and GroupM have generated sufficient data to design optimised plans for at least 60 to 70% of the spend goes to television.

The communications industry has also seen the proliferation of TV channels and the shift of the media buying function from the full-service agency to specialised media buying agencies. We now foresee the amalgamation of the smaller media buying agencies in order to gain synergies, as well as advertisers moving to larger media groups to obtain better value for their spends.

These changes have introduced the concept of a specialised review of the media planning function and its execution – independent of the media buying companies. This means that post-campaign analysis is now evaluating whether the business objectives were met as well as the overall value the client achieved.

Given that advertising spend is considered to be one of the largest administrative costs of a company (comparable to trade discount margins), clients need to ensure that this spend is closely monitored and that the ROI is calculated.

However, there is a need for a shift in mindset whereby spend is seen as an investment rather than an expenditure by the client, while media agencies will need to assume the role of investment managers and make ROI their single most important performance measure.

According to Thomas Bridge, the Founder and CEO of Media Management Inc. (MMI): “As US brands expand to other markets, the need for an independent media audit becomes even more important. The media investment risk increases with complexity of the media buy.”


The objectives of a media audit are not to eradicate risk in media buying, but to help clients manage it better and help advertisers and media agencies equip themselves with risk management tools.


MMI has developed a software called Circle Audit to help advertisers answer the 3 Questions regarding their media investment. They are:

Did I get what I paid for?

Did I pay a reasonable price?

Were my media buys managed to my specifications?

The Circle Audit however, allows advertisers to go beyond answering the 3 Questions. A MMI media audit consists of data acquisition, quality control and media analytics. Each step within the Circle Audit platform is designed to ensure that clients are obtaining full return on their media investment.

By going into the minutest of details, media audits are able to give an independent view of what has happened from briefing to planning and buying to invoicing. It also identifies gaps and defines procedures and controls to ensure that future campaigns deliver the maximum achievable to the client. The audit is not a platform to point out failures and missed targets (and put the media agencies on the spot); it is above all, a method to bring maximum transparency and clarity to the media supply chain process.

The objectives of a media audit are not to eradicate risk in media buying, but to help clients manage it better and help advertisers and media agencies equip themselves with risk management tools that will give them the space to use the entire gamut of media choices.


There is a need for media audits in Pakistan because the performance measure of a good agency versus a great agency depends on how well they are achieving their cost per rating point (CPRP).


Although a relatively new concept, media audits have been accepted as key value providers in giving clients an independent view on media performance. By identifying critical gaps, brand teams are then equipped with technical, media-specific knowledge that will help them better evaluate agency planning as well as communicate a better brief to their agency.

It will also force the media agencies to treat the spend as an investment and to look at all the variables beyond the cost of buying ad space and sponsorship deals.

Given the risks associated with high ad spends, it is encouraging to note that most advertisers in Pakistan have realised the importance of media management and are treating it as a specialised department within the marketing and communications function. There is a need for media audits in Pakistan because the performance measure of a good agency versus a great agency depends on how well they are achieving their cost per rating point (CPRP).

The impact of the CPRP is critical. It can determine the fate of an account, a bonus payment, the longevity of the business and whether the performance targets stipulated in a contract have been met or not. (Think about the difference it makes whether TV audiences are bought at $200 per rating point or at $250 per rating point).

Most media procurement departments are weary about what is going on in the industry in terms of number crunching and how easy it is to manipulate a CPRP. This is where auditors come in, as they will scrutinise media plans, evaluate media buys and set benchmarks for future agency work. Furthermore, when scrutinising the media buy, media optimisation looks into the most advantageous ad breaks that will deliver good CPRPs.


Media audits are a step towards making the media supply chain process transparent and improving the overall value of the investment by the client.


However, here the chances are that the spots will have plenty of company and the more spots in a break, the less their impact. Media auditors regularly evaluate spots during ad breaks and the position of the commercial in the ad break as both dimensions significantly enhance the value of each commercial and hence the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall media investment.

Media audits are a step towards making the media supply chain process transparent and improving the overall value of the investment by the client. The need is to make the process robust and completely independent at both the client’s and the media agency’s end.

Article excerpted from ‘Managing risk’, published in the May-June 2011 edition of Aurora.

M. Saqib Haroon is Co-Founder, Sight Media. Philipp Vogeler was formerly Founder and CEO, Al Jisr Company.

First published in THE DAWN OF ADVERTISING IN PAKISTAN (1947-2017), a Special Report published by DAWN on March 31, 2018.