Tom Denford
By Tom Denford
Jul 17, 2011 10:53:36 AM

Making Media Neutrality Possible. And Accountable.


With so many media choices available to clients, they need to know that they are getting unbiased advice on which channels to use.

An agency with a cross-media offering (such as a creative agency or media agency) should in theory offer clients a completely objective point of view about which media channels will be most effective and relevant to answer the client’s brief.

In practice however, there is often a bias towards certain media choices, meaning that the choice of media is not always made 100% in the client’s best interests. Usually this is a symptom of a remuneration model that influences an agency’s choices, for example if a creative agency is making a large proportion of their income from the production process then they may be more likely to recommend media, such as TV or print, which are more production intensive than say PR which involves minimal production. In the same way, a media agency paid by media commission may be more likely to recommend media which takes less time (and headcount resources) to implement. A TV plan can spend large chunks of the client’s money very quickly compared to say, organising an event or planning an intricate digital campaign.

In many agency contracts, the additional labour involved in planning and buying digital media will be charged at a higher rate of commission than offline media. It is clear to see how this situation could rightly or wrongly bring into question an agency’s media neutral advice.

We believe that it should be the ambition of all clients to work with agencies that are media neutral to ensure that the advice they receive is entirely in the best interests of the client not the agency’s bottom line. Agencies themselves feel a growing sense of frustration at having their media objectivity questioned, simply because of a payment model often mandated to them by the very client who is questioning their media choices.

The only way to guarantee neutrality in advice on media channel is to ensure that the agency has no direct income advantage in recommending one medium over another or one media owner over another. This can be achieved by adopting a remuneration model which fairly rewards the agency for making choices in the client’s interest.