What is a media audit and why do one? A media audit is the process of determining whether the advertising being bought for your company is achieving your objective and doing so at fair market cost. Media is usually the largest line item in an advertising budget. If it fails to meet your goals or is over-priced it can doom an advertising campaign. Just as you review your finances regularly, you should have a regular media audit.


Advertising should start with the end in mind. You need a clear understanding what it is you want to happen. For many businesses it is to sell more products or services. With your objective established a precise knowledge of how the objective happens is required.  What is the buying process for your business? For some businesses, the buying cycle is short. Think low-priced e-commerce items.

Sales Process

For many goods and services the period of research and consideration is longer before a decision is made. An individual considering knee replacement is not likely to sign-up with the first ad that they see. A longer buying process requires more touchpoints along the path to purchase. You need to determine the milestones that occur in the buying process.

Client Avatar

Knowing the target audience or client avatar is another critical component to successful advertising. The more granularly the prospect can be described, the better. Ideally, it is more than just age and gender. Knowing their characteristics, interests and behaviors is extremely valuable. With that understanding and knowledge of their geographical location the auditor can see how accurately the current media plan  targets the consumers.

With an understanding of how your prospects become customers it is time to discover how your advertising moves people through the advertising funnel. This will vary from business to business. A media audit will address how your advertising generates awareness for your business. Then it will examine how the consideration phase is nurtured. Is your advertising successfully moving your audience into the intent phase? And of course, the audit will review how the campaign drives sales.


Each of these stages should be identified by the milestone events in the buying process. Milestones can be measured. Those events are your KPI’s or Key Performing Indicators. At each step in the process there should be a communications touch point and data. An audit considers whether there is a way to increase the number of prospects who move from awareness to consideration to intent etc.

A media audit examines how or if all of these factors were initially considered in putting together the  media plan. Were objectives identified and clearly defined? How is advertising addressing awareness, consideration and intent. Can the KPI’s be improved. And of course, where can sales be increased.

Reviewing Media

When reviewing traditional media, it is important to see how often the media plan is updated. Audiences and behaviors change. That will affect ratings which should affect costs. This is especially true with television and radio. Similarly, consider how changes in behaviors will affect the viewing of Outdoor media. Covid has affected commuting and the number of people who see some forms of Outdoor. Have rates been adjusted appropriately or has budget been moved to a more productive outlet?

On the digital side the client website should be reviewed.  Design flaws identified. The most valuable keywords need to be found and then determined if they are used correctly in the website copy. Is new content regularly posted to the website? Are back links developed regularly? A study of the site’s back end should be done to ensure all pages and images are properly tagged. Then the site should be compared with sites from competitors to see how it ranks.

Paid search also needs to be studied for performance. Is the conversion cost acceptable? Are there missing keywords or too many underperforming keywords? Is bidding regularly optimized?

Are You Ready?

There is also the uncomfortable part of the media audit that asks if the company is properly prepared for an advertising campaign. If the company is selling products do, they have sufficient inventory and the ability to re-stock as sales increase. When there is a lead generation component a company must handle the increase in inquiries in a timely manner. Failure to do so will waste advertising dollars and possibly affect reputation. The company should have a current CRM system to track leads once they have been received. Otherwise, final attribution will not be possible.

A media audit is time-consuming. Increasingly, it is an exercise in data collection and analysis. The auditor needs to determine if the premise of the campaign is correct and how each piece of media contributes to the end goal. Start with strategy and then move to tactics. The performance of each media is then evaluated as is the cost. In the end, the business undergoing the media audit will come out with better knowledge of what their media is doing and what it could be doing. When was the last time you had a media audit?