We’ve all seen the look on the face of an anxious toddler as they prepare to jump into the waiting arms of a parent in a pool.
The child wants to leap, knows there is little risk, trusts their parent and knows that the feeling of satisfaction related to their action will far outweigh their apprehension, yet they hesitate to take the plunge. This scenario can be analogous to organization’s considering an independent contract compliance audit of an advertising agency partner.
Managers’ go through a series of considerations when weighing whether or not to conduct an agency compliance and financial management review, including:
- It’s not that we don’t trust our ad agency partners
- It’s not that we don’t believe our agencies are putting forth their “best efforts” to safeguard our marketing investment
- It’s not that we don’t have confidence that our marketing team is effectively safeguarding our marketing budget
- We have never audited this aspect of our SG&A
- Marketing spend is a material expense
- Our C-suite executives are asking questions regarding risks and controls
- Over time, our agency roster has grown and spending has increased
- We read the trade press and are concerned about fraud, brand safety, adherence to fiduciary standards and the like
In the end, Finance, Procurement and or Internal Audit leadership know they should undertake this important risk reducing work. They also realize that an outside specialists provides valuable industry expertise. Yet, they often cannot get to “yes.”
Why the hesitation? The reasons are many; Marketing indicates that the timing is not right, we don’t have the budget, we’ve conducted internal reviews ourselves, our agency is a trusted partner, we’re considering transitioning agencies… and the list goes on.
The good news is that all rationale cited for not moving forward with comprehensive testing of ad agency partner billings, costs and contract compliance can be readily addressed. The audit process is not time consuming, poses no relationship risk, is allowed for in the client-agency agreement, and most importantly the benefits far outweigh the cost / risk of the audit not proceeding.
Audit results yield a combination of historical financial recoveries tied to billing errors, unauthorized mark-up, unreconciled jobs, and outstanding credits. Financial true-ups and learning far outpace the initial audit investment. And most importantly, the work yields forward looking process improvement, contract language improvement, financial refinement, and risk mitigation opportunities to generate cost savings and peace of mind.
With proper oversight, we have seen concerns regarding agency accountability replaced with a sense of trust and confidence. Key benefits in a market sector noted for its lack of transparency, murky supply-chains and lack of trust.
Where does your organization stand on this important accountability practice? Perhaps the words of Daniel Wagner, a widely published author on current affairs and risk management, can embolden organizations to take the prudent action:
“Some risks that are thought to be unknown, are not unknown. With some foresight and critical thought, some risks that at first glance may seem unforeseen, can in fact be foreseen. Armed with the right set of tools, procedures, knowledge and insight, light can be shed on variables that lead to risk, allowing us to manage them.”