Alliance for Audited Media

The Alliance for Audited Media is the recognized leader in print and digital media verification. We help marketers identify audited publishers and give quality media an edge over the millions of options in the advertising supply chain.


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Understanding media audits: what marketers need to know

by Erin Boudreau

June 1, 2021

Audits are essential to marketing. They build trust between advertisers, agencies and media, help buyers find quality partners and determine whether campaigns are meeting expectations. But the term “audit” is often used interchangeably with other types of reviews and can take on a different meaning depending on the purpose and focus of the project.

Marketers might perform campaign audits to determine which media channels offer the greatest ROI or social media audits to evaluate social campaign performance. There is, however, a type of audit that requires minimal work from the marketer’s side but is critical for marketers to understand – a publisher audit. Here we explain what a publisher audit is, how they work and the benefits media audits provide marketers.

Publisher audits defined

Publisher audits are compliance audits, which are conducted by independent, third-party auditors with the goal of determining whether an organization is adhering to a specific set of standards or guidelines.

The Alliance for Audited Media specializes in a type of compliance audit developed to verify media and help marketers make more informed buying decisions. Digital publisher audits determine whether the traffic to a publisher’s website is valid and that the publisher has taken steps to minimize ad fraud risk and protect marketers’ investments. Marketers can prioritize audited publishers in direct buys or through programmatic channels through inclusion lists.

Similarly, media buyers placing ads in print publications use audited circulation data to evaluate the reach of a publisher’s advertising product within a market. Buyers gain confidence that the reported numbers are accurate and trustworthy because the data have been verified by a third party and analyzed against industry standards.

How a publisher audit works

Whether the channel being audited is digital or print, all publisher audits include the following components:

Adherence to Industry Standards. Each audit starts with an initial system evaluation and pre-audit assessment where auditors gain an understanding of the publisher’s ad delivery system to assess the system’s risk and the scope of the audit. This process determines what standards will be used to guide the audit.

One example is evaluating a publisher’s compliance with the terms outlined in the contract made with the buyer. The audit may also assess a publisher’s compliance with standards developed by an industry body such as AAM, BPA, the Media Rating Council (MRC), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Point of Care Communication Council (PoC3). By incorporating industry standards into the audit, the auditor can perform tests against those standards and use them as a guide to develop an independent conclusion.

Established Audit Processes. During the audit, auditors examine documents and information provided by the publisher and conduct tests to ensure the publisher’s ad delivery system is providing accurate data. Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) are used in financial audits as well as publisher audits, and helps to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and verifiability of auditors' actions and reports. An auditor might also be trained and certified by ISACA, which is a professional organization for Certified Information Systems Auditors (CISAs) who are experts at auditing IT and business systems.

An Independent, Third-Party Analysis. When the audit is completed, auditors issue a formal report that summarizes their findings. While a publisher may attest that they have complied with industry standards and that the data provided is accurate, only an audit by an independent third party provides the highest level of assurance by verifying the publisher’s claim against industry standards and developing an independent conclusion.

Ask your media partners for an audit

Audits provide insights to help marketers make more informed media decisions. They go beyond internal reviews and self-attestation to provide verified, trusted data that buyers can rely upon to select media partners, optimize campaigns and plan marketing strategies.

By asking your media partners to participate in a third-party audit, you gain assurance that your ads are being placed on trusted channels that meet industry standards, deliver quality data and provide maximum ROI. Using audits to shape your campaign from the start can provide a foundation of quality that will help make the most of your budget and provide you with actionable data from beginning to end.


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