When my colleague suggested I write a blog about media reconciliation and responsibile billing practices, I must admit my first thought was, “who in their right mind would want to read about that?” Though the day to day of managing reconciliations and media payables is at times unexciting, the result of attention to detail in this arena is a pronounced value to the agency and the client. So let me touch a bit on this process and then focus on the reconciliation of media invoices.
I should mention I am the Director of Financial Services at our agency. I handle the controller functions of the company but I also manage the end game of the media process over here. And though “media reconciliation” is such a common term in the industry, I really wish I could tweak it to something like “media watchdog” to show how I really feel about it’s potential.
So what is involved in this process we like to call "stewardship"? Well it's really just responsible billing, everything involved in that process from reconciling invoices to batching them and reporting what should be paid. But in short it is managing our client's media dollars as if they were our own.
Most understand that the first order of business in the stewardship task is to make certain all media that was ordered truly ran. And of course this is not simply matching bottom line totals. When reconciling TV for instance, did each spot run for the agreed rate? Did the coveted “Breaking Bad” spot really run within the show? Was it missed and made good in a “Gilligan’s Island” rerun that didn’t quite make the mark (a bit of a stretchfor impact)? Or did another advertiser bump your client and the money was left on the table?
Fortunately, these days we have great software to identify all these oversights, and hiccups. But after using our tools to identify the errors, part of our buyers’ expertise is to negotiate appropriate make-goods. That’s where the stewardship begins. It is critical that buyers respectfully and firmly hold station reps accountable for fulfilling agency orders.
Thus far what I described is standard procedure for our agency and should be for most.
Ok, now the part you won’t hear about elsewhere. A media department can also function as an extension of a client’s accounting department. What did you say? Yes, especially if media bills are being approved by the agency and paid by the advertiser. If the media reconciliation process is viewed as an extension of the clients accounting department, the accountability and detail is going to step up a level. After all, accounting is serious business, right? When offering to make media approvals and forward to a client in a form that’s ready to be entered into a client's corporate accounting, that is a big deal. Our agency even goes to great lengths to monitor vendor account aging data so clients don’t ever have to worry about missed credits, missed payments, account adjustments, or billing errors. We make it part of our process.
Think about media reporting that is infused with accounting flavor. Clients love it when you can take away additional steps that they usually have to spend time on. We customize our reporting to match the client’s needs and systems. It is really rewarding to see pertinent data going out to the client that makes their jobs easier.
Ok, that’s it. After managing this process for many years at our agency, I’ve come to realize that once this process is tightened up, it makes the entire media machine run stronger, for the agency and the client (hopefully the media too). And there are far less fires to put out. If we, as the agency are making it a part of our routine to ensure that everything runs correctly and is reported to the client clearly, accurately, and in a way that’s customized to their needs, our client can be at ease, knowing that someone is intensely looking out for their marketing interests.
Why not get clients addicted to a higher level of service?