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Media buying perspectives: The value of audited media in times of change

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In 2020, the Alliance for Audited Media interviewed several media buyers to learn how they evaluate audited media and prioritize audited publishers in their media plans. Since then, world events have impacted the industry, leading to changing resources for buyers and publishers, greater demand for accountability and shifts in media buying strategy.

AAM recently revisited these buyer conversations to gain fresh perspectives on media planning in 2022, the impact of these challenges on the industry and buyers’ reliance on audited media. Here’s what they had to say.

The impact of global events on media and advertising

It’s no surprise that the events of the past two years — the pandemic, war in Ukraine and inflation — have led to supply chain issuesreduced resources, and rising costs for paper, production and transportation. Publishers reduced the frequency of print editions and replaced them with digital editions. Advertisers switched from product to branding campaigns when materials for packaging weren’t available. These disruptions also impacted media buyers, who shortened planning windows and shifted tactics quickly when media options were not available.

“We are planning more in real time than we have in the past,” said Brenda White, EVP/group director, Starcom USA. “In today’s environment, buyers must be nimble and move quickly.”

Lead times that were once several months long are sometimes shortened to weeks.

“Planning was once an annual process divided into quarters. Now we are almost planning week by week,” said Gwen Maass, vice president of media services, Quad.

These challenges led to greater scrutiny of how a brand’s money is spent, causing some buyers to be more selective when targeting the best markets and audiences for their message.

“Budgets are continually scrutinized,” Maass added. “Every client wants to make sure their media dollars are spent wisely and as an agency partner, we are accountable to our clients for ensuring those budgets are invested properly and, ultimately, providing the necessary return.”

Buyers increasingly rely upon data they trust, which for many means incorporating verified data into their media plans.

Audited media provides greater accountability

In times of uncertainty, advertisers want proof their money is being invested wisely, which is why many buyers turn to data verified by a third party.

“Audited media is more important than before because of the scrutiny our plans receive,” White added. “When we use audited data, we can hold up the audit and say to our clients, ‘This is real. This is true. We know these copies were where they should be because they were audited.’”

Bridgit Wallace, VP of integrated client strategy at Novus, agreed. She uses verified circulation data to gain a more complete picture of a publisher’s reach.

“We need to understand the details of their circulation so we can translate that value to our clients,” Wallace said. “To me, that’s a critical piece.”

Media that is not audited often must undergo greater scrutiny and testing, putting an added strain on buyers’ and sellers’ resources. Unaudited publications also raise questions about the veracity of the publisher’s data.

“We always say if it’s audited, it’s a more stable property,” said one director of advertising at a major brand. “Anything that’s controlled we second guess because it’s hard to know who’s reading it.”

Audits as a standard currency

Since all AAM-audited publishers adhere to the same industry standards, audits are a standard currency by which buyers can measure and assess media properties in a market. Audits allow marketers to differentiate audited media from all other advertising options because an audited publisher’s data has met established industry criteria — something even more valuable in times of change.

“It’s important to make sure that media is evaluated in the proper way and that there is a level playing field with how we’re looking at the channel,” said Maass. “To us, the value of an audit is still as high as it always was, and maybe even more so because of all the changes taking place in the industry.”

Audited data improves media buying efficiency

One of the most common reasons buyers turn to audited media was that accessing audited data reduced the amount of legwork needed to vet publishers.

“Having trusted data we can access in a turnkey way means we can spend more of our time and energy where it matters most — on client strategy,” said Wallace. AAM does this by providing data in several easy-to-use formats via AAM’s Media Intelligence Center, industry reports and lists, and direct data feeds.

“It’s highly valuable for us to have AAM data at our fingertips, so we don’t have to be out obtaining publisher data ourselves,” said Kathy Heatley, VP, director local investment at Starcom USA. “AAM makes our process more efficient.”

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