A client recently sent me an RFP for their Media Auditing Services. I called them and said that we do not provide auditing service as we were not auditors. They said that we provide performance benchmarking and assessments on their content agencies, how come we did not do the same on media? I said we do that, but that is not auditing is it?
When you look at the definition of audit is says:
1. An examination of records or financial accounts to check their accuracy.
2. An adjustment or correction of accounts.
3. An examined and verified account.
That is what I think of when I hear the term auditor.
The person appointed to conduct an examination of the records, to form an opinion about the authenticity and correctness of such records, by verifying the correctness and reliability of the recorded transactions from the evidences available, opinion and inference reachable based on his expertise.
Now of course there are media auditors who conduct forensic financial investigations into the media transactions of advertisers to the correctness and reliability of those transactions. They ensure that what the agency charges the client is what the agency paid to the media owner and what the media owner charged the agency was the amount agreed and that the media was supplied in the specified form.
This is auditing.
The people undertaking the audit usually have some financial or accounting qualification and in many countries must actually be qualified and recognized as an auditor by a professional body, because the role of an auditor is an important one that requires a high level of integrity and trust.
The Sarbane Oxley legislation in the US was introduced to provide a framework to accounting and auditing to ensure the rigor required because the US and the world had seen what happens when auditors and accountants have a less than rigorous level of integrity and trust.
That brings me back to the number of people and companies in the marketing and advertising category who call themselves auditors and yet do not provide either the auditing process or have the rigor or professional body recognition of being auditors.
Yes, they provide assessments, perhaps have industry benchmarks and provide knowledge on industry practices and buying rates and processes, but this is not strictly auditing.
But why would you call yourself an auditor when you do not actually have either a recognized qualification to audit or actually comply with a rigorous audit process?
Is it borrowed credibility?
Certainly, with the rigor and standards demanded of auditors by legislation like SOX in regards to independence, professional accountability and recognized industry standards, to pretend to be an auditor when you are not has a huge advantage over your non-auditor competition.
Or do people know that they are not really engaging auditors and it is just another debased term that gets bandied around the consulting world? I am sure those who have actually spent years becoming qualified and then adhere to the high standards of their profession would be sad to hear that almost anyone providing a media benchmarking service can call themselves the same.