In this competitive media environment, merely passing an audit is not enough. Nailing the annual audit is critical to the agency's reputation. That's according to Kevin Stafford, Senior Vice President, Client Director, on the McDonald's co-ops account at Canvas Worldwide.
Canvas was recently named the Top Agency Performer for its McDonald's co-op clients, reaching perfect scores for its TV Spend and GRP Delivery categories. And, of course, other big wins like bringing in an extra 30% value for Radio, helped push the agency to a peak position.
Canvas, like other agencies, has a standard protocol for preparing for an audit, Stafford explained. The agency calculates the post buy and sends the data to the audit company, which then returns a preview of the analysis so the agency can respond with any additional commentary to the findings. "At the end of the day, our audit score is a number on our report card for how well we performed," he noted. "However, it is just one part of that, and to me, it's actually come to be about pride and being able to show in numbers, versus the competition, how well we have done."
Ultimately, audit success is based upon trust. "We are lucky enough to have support from all of those partners in the good times, and a willingness to take chances in the challenging times. The trust our clients have in our work, both on the strategy and investment teams, is something we are fortunate to have. I think it comes off in our work and the results we have seen over the last few years, with great media audit results," Stafford said.
Prepping for the Future
The key to preparing for future audits is to start early. "Even as we are finalizing our plans for 2022 now, our strategy teams are talking to our investment teams to make sure we have the right daypart mixes," Stafford said. There's also a discussion about changes in the market over the last weeks, months or year. "We are looking to ensure we have the right overall strategy and that it aligns with our clients' goals and objectives for the coming year."
Building relationships both internally and externally allows an agency to become more strategic in an extremely fluid and transformative media ecosystem. That involves "the flexibility and willingness to challenge the status quo in each region, each market and with each client," Stafford noted.
What Does an Audit Entail?
The frequency of an audit can vary by agency and by client. "With some of our clients, we actually get audited quarterly," Stafford said. "They send the goals that were input by strategy and the exact times for the spots that ran for each of the audited markets to the audit company. [Then the audit company] uses that data, along with Kantar data, to evaluate the buys vs. a panel of other similar clients, vs. ourselves in previous quarters and vs. the averages."
Preparing the agency technologically helped save the day for Canvas during COVID-19. "We had a very opportunistic transition just weeks before the pandemic that allowed us to go into Monday, March 16, 2020 -- our first day with offices closed -- with limited interruption in our communication," he said. That helped solve for what would otherwise have been a hectic and error-prone pandemic adjustment.
In unusual times, such as during the pandemic, there were other considerations involving the audit -- including different parameters for client success. "While the overall audit process did not change, there were some glaring changes in the media marketplace. But communication with our clients really allowed us to make the changes that continued to focus on the client's business objectives," Stafford said.
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