Our Director of Audit shares three fundamentals on maintaining relevance and rigour in our ever-evolving digital media industry

A picture of Alice

06/07/2021

ABC’s Director of Audit, Alice Milner, takes a look at how to keep up with our ever-evolving digital industry while maintaining structure and rigour in our services.

A new piece of technology comes along; industry standards are created. An industry spokesperson talks of strategy and change; standards get updated. A trendy new medium is developed; more standards hit the market… We’ve seen it time and time again.

A bit like keeping up with the Government’s COVID announcements, when a situation is fluid with constant updates and iterations, it’s hard to follow standard processes and make long term plans. There’s very little that’s concrete in life at the moment and we’ve all been reacting to circumstances as best we can.

So, in a media market that’s similarly adapting quickly to survive and thrive, how can we meet client needs while retaining rigour and structure in the services we provide?

As the industry owned auditor, our focus is on developing specialist audit services that underpin fast-changing digital processes and standards. Our audit services work spans many different areas and is fundamental in supporting a healthy and sustainable digital advertising industry.

It’s therefore vitally important that we’re able to respond and support the industry when needed. Here I cover three fundamental areas that I believe have enabled us to keep pace with the media pioneers of today and provide the ‘stamp of trust’ we’re known for in new areas:

People

Surround yourself with people that embrace change. Here at ABC we take our values of being agile, expert, impartial, proactive and trustworthy, extremely seriously.

We have people in every team who aren’t afraid of ‘new’. Whether it be a new standard to audit to or finding efficiencies in our existing processes, our audit managers are constantly looking to adapt and improve. This culture of reflection and change fosters an open-minded approach and enables us to move quickly when the market needs us to.   

Our people also want to learn. As the industry-owned auditor, we’re very familiar with a wide range of industry standards such as TAG, BARB, JICMAIL, IAB Gold, EDAA, COUNTER and more. Our clients vary widely from TV broadcasters and publishers to technology providers and platforms, big and small. So we’ve developed a broad range of skills and expertise across the team. This is helped hugely by working with people that want to learn new skills and by investing in their training.

Strategy

Our ambition is to be the organisation that industry decision-makers call first. And it’s here we’ve found that setting a high-level strategy and sticking to our values, has enabled us to make quick decisions on whether something’s right for us to put resource into or not.

It’s also given us room to manoeuvre and provide bespoke audit solutions. For example, we now offer an audit service that follows a ‘Ronseal’ approach i.e. does a product do ‘what it says on the tin’?  This requires us to come up with innovative methodologies and use our skills and experience on the fundamentals of auditing, to create a rigorous audit process that can meet the brief. Ultimately, as long as a company can meet our high standards of disclosure and proof with evidence, we’re happy to issue our ‘stamp of trust.’ This is what we did for the IAB in certifying their Gold Standard Certification process.

Good strategy needs to be supported by good processes. Here our specialist audit managers focus on instilling processes that provide boundaries and structure while allowing flexibility and speed. An example of this is where we get ‘under the bonnet’ of technology providers in areas such as brand safety content verification (CV) tools, viewability and ad fraud. The standards in these areas are subject to frequent change and the technology we look at can vary immensely, so there can be significant differences in the type and detail of the technical audits we conduct.  But due to our processes we’re able to change our programmes to suit, while maintaining our overall level of rigour.

Standards

Last but not least, we look to do the simple things well, and while we spend our days measuring others to industry standards, we also hold ourselves to high standards in support of our value of being trustworthy.

We’ve always worked towards the audit quality standards defined by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. There’s a lot of focus on resource planning, skills & competency including:

  • Flexible resource planning – making sure we have the right number and mix of people for the work we need to do.
  • Continuous training and development of auditors – developing and sharing subject matter knowledge as we audit new things, and nurturing a multi-skilled pool of staff to draw upon.
  • Professional qualifications to support audit skills and build technical knowledge.
  • Quality review – a regular programme of spot-checking completed work, to identify what we may need to improve, and share ideas for good practice.

So by taking that same approach, we’d obviously recommend you look at the industry standards that are relevant to your business. There are a multitude of industry programmes that exist to establish trust and transparency in the ever-evolving advertising ecosystem

In summary, from collaborating with other industry bodies as they seek to develop new best practice standards, to providing high quality audits across some of the biggest global certification programs, we’ve seen impressive growth and change over the past two years. And, just as we’re continually adapting to the COVID situation there’s no chance of our industry standing still.

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