What on earth is a collateral audit?

December 14, 2015

Picture this: You have just won a pitch to assume all brand, design and print work for a well known bank with 55 branches nationwide. The bank's Marketing Manager has not long been in her role and does not yet have a comprehensive record or history of collateral produced. You need to get your head around all the bank's marketing and production requirements as soon as you can. One way to help you through this process is to conduct a "collateral audit". 


What is a collateral audit?

A collateral audit is an assessment of your client's current marketing processes, from design, print and production through to warehousing and distribution.

The audit results in a report (usually a spreadsheet and a long-form document) outlining every single item of printed and digital collateral that is currently in use, plus an assessment of current processes with recommendations for improvement.

A collateral audit will help you to plan campaigns with ease. You will have all specifications to hand. You'll know which branch is to receive which pieces of campaign collateral, what they look like, the sizes required, quantities, etc. You will know how to produce the items and get them to their destinations.

A collateral audit will highlight areas where real efficiencies can be achieved (costs, time, space). It will provide focus and insight that result in better strategic planning, appropriate material production and increased revenue.


What could a collateral audit include?

  • brochures and flyers
  • posters
  • signage (internal, external and digital)
  • business forms
  • stationery
  • vehicle signage
  • menuboards
  • banners
  • flags
  • table talkers
  • packaging
  • branded merchandise
  • display monitors
  • web and social ads

When you create your audit record (a spreadsheet works best), you should include as much of the following information as possible:

  • an image
  • the current supplier (is the most appropriate supplier being used for the job?)
  • size (clearly show width x height, and depth if appropriate)
  • number of different kinds/versions
  • quantity produced of each kind (are the order levels appropriate?)
  • stock or substrate
  • number of colours
  • finishing
  • framing
  • binding
  • folding
  • normal or reverse print (e.g. window stickers)
  • number of pages
  • print method used
  • location
  • current production costs


Warehousing and distribution

If you are responsible for the design and production of your client's collateral, it is possible you will also be responsible for its storage (warehousing) and distribution.

  • Where is the collateral being stored?
  • Number of storage points.
  • Current stock/usage/wastage levels.
  • Quantity in stock.
  • Is any outdated stock being stored and/or used? 
  • Current storage costs
  • How is the collateral being distributed?
  • How much agency and/or client staff time is required?
  • Are the correct freight companies being used?
  • Who is handling the picking, packing and distribution process?
  • Current distribution costs.


One size may not fit all

If your client has multiple stores or multiple offices, you will need to record collateral for each of those locations.

It is easy to assume that the collateral will be the same size or type at each location, but that may not be the case. Buildings are all different shapes and sizes, also signage size, types and framing can differ. What is displayed may also need to differ depending on the demographics of the customers being served. It is imperative that your audit covers each branch separately.


Take a road trip

The best way to ensure you are gathering accurate information is to pack your bags and go on a road trip to visit each location. You will be able to take photos and measurements and take nothing for granted. Once you have visited one location, your eagle eyes will be sharpened and you'll get into a rhythm of things to look for and record.

Sending one or two staff on a road trip can prove expensive, so an alternative is to create a spreadsheet and ask the manager of each location to fill it in for you. There are inherent risks involved in this method (such as inaccurate measurements and missing items), but it's certainly a good second option.



  • When measuring anything that sits within a frame, ensure you are measuring the size of the actual poster, not the size of the frame.
  • If any collateral sits in a frame, also record how far the frame extends into the image area, as this area will be hidden in your artwork.
  • Watch out for any collateral items (especially signage and banners) that are not square or rectangular; you will need to take more detailed measurements.
  • Take photos of every single piece of collateral that you are recording and measuring.
  • Take photos and measure collateral even if you are not sure if it is relevent. Better you do it while you see it than have to go back and redo it later.
  • If a branch has more than one of any piece of collateral (e.g. 3 x framed A0 posters), then you need to record this on your spreadsheet, and note if the artwork is the same or different in each.


Who pays?

If you commission a cross-country road trip - which may include airfares, meal allowances and hotel stays - then the costs will rack up very quickly. If your client already holds most or all of the collateral information, then conducting the audit will be relatively simple.

Either way, it's worth having a conversation about charging for the service. Ultimately both agency and client will benefit greatly from the creation of the collateral audit, so there is high value to both sides. 

The value of a collateral audit:
  • lower margin of error for collateral production
  • all information is in one place
  • specifications are accessible to everyone
  • ability to weed out unwanted collateral
  • time saving for campaign planning
  • production, storage and distribution cost saving
  • increased revenue.


Is a collateral audit worth it?

Yes, yes and thrice yes! A detailed summary of all your client's collateral will allow you to be proactive rather than reactive. You'll see the big picture and then know how each piece plays a part. You'll be able to plan your campaigns more easily and with a higher level of confidence; and your client should save money.

It's highly probable that no agency before you would have conducted a collateral audit for your client, so they should be impressed at your efficiency and your desire to understand their business as quickly as possible. Your agency will shine and your job will be made easier. You can't ask for better than that!




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