Talking Advertising Assurance With AAM President Rich Murphy

Apr 18, 2024

One of the foundational components of any advertising campaign is knowing who your audience is, and whether the media platform you’re considering is delivering the people most likely to be interested in your product.

In print media, independent audit bureaus have performed that function for generations. In the last two decades, media brands have evolved into being multichannel operations, using digital and events alongside print. And the audit agencies had to adapt.

Rich Murphy.

Last year, the 114-year-old Alliance for Audited Media merged with the 93-year-old BPA Worldwide (founded as the Business Publications Audit of Circulations) to create the largest non-profit audit agency in the media space. We recently had a chance to catch up with AAM President Rich Murphy to discuss the necessity for third-party, 360-degree assurance in the media market. Here’s our conversation. 

Fox Tales: My sense is that media assurance is more important than it ever was, after a lag in the prior two decades as media migrated away from print. Is that accurate? 

Rich Murphy: Media assurance is always important. We are seeing an increase in awareness and importance in media assurance across channels. Digital media is complicated. The often-opaque transaction path (brands > agencies > demand-side platforms > exchanges < supply-side platforms > publishers) introduces multiple risks, including ad fraud, made-for-advertising inventory, and reduced working media. Independent media assurance protects media buyers and publishers from these risks and more.

Fox Tales: What media products are positioned where the growth/demand is for AAM’s third-party audits? Events? Websites? 360-degree approach?

Murphy: AAM has been known for auditing the leading news media, consumer media, and business-media brands. Our assurance services have expanded with our members’ media portfolios and now include digital, print, events, podcasts, social media and more. Many of your readers may not know that we have built robust digital media, ad tech, sustainability, and privacy practices. We partner with leading industry associations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), and the Event Industry Council (EIC) to provide media-assurance services on their behalf. We are the assurance provider for the media industry.

Fox Tales: What areas should media companies be focused on more than they are today?

Murphy: Privacy and sustainability. Privacy has legal and regulatory risks. Sustainability has business and revenue risks. Privacy is a complicated matter, with an ever-evolving patchwork of state laws and global regulations. Last week was privacy week in Washington D.C., and multiple state regulators warned that they are ramping up their enforcement teams and becoming more aggressive with compliance. It’s critical for media companies to be prepared and confident when it comes to privacy.

On the sustainability front, more agencies are including sustainability questions and requirements in their RFPs. Media companies that address sustainability in their operations and effectively communicate their actions to the market will win more revenue opportunities.

Fox Tales: How has thinking on the buyer-side (agencies, marketers) changed in recent years?

Murphy: Buyer-seller relationships are becoming more disconnected, especially on the digital front. Buyers are working in self-serve environments, planning, executing, and evaluating campaigns with limited-to-no-interaction with publishers.  AAM data flows directly into the agency databases and buying tools, informing media decisions in the planning and transaction phases. The validated AAM data is more important than ever.

Fox Tales: BPA merged with AAM last year. Tell us how that’s gone both internally and in the market. Have you seen expansion as opposed to serving existing clients from both organizations?

Murphy: The AAM-BPA integration is ahead of schedule and is exceeding market expectations. Standards, policies, and tech have been harmonized. All member data is available in our Media Intelligence Center, providing publishers with more tools to promote their brands, and buyers with one destination for trustworthy media data. The combined organization provides AAM with the talent and resources needed to meet the needs of a rapidly changing media landscape.

Fox Tales: Tell us the role of the external rep-firms like Fox Associates in this ecosystem.

Murphy: External resources can play a valuable role in the media ecosystem. It is a complex environment with many fast moving and evolving parts. External resources can bring a level of knowledge and expertise that may not be available internally. They can also educate the internal team on evolving media issues and solutions. Lastly, they can expand the bandwidth of the internal team, as needed.