What is media neutrality?
As you search for an agency to help you achieve your marketing goals, you may come across the term “media neutral.” But what does that actually mean? Those two words put together can mean a multitude of different things. Google isn’t much help, bringing up search results with everything from bias in news media to articles from 2002 about the coming digital media boom. So, when it comes to advertising, what is media neutrality – and what does it mean for your campaigns? Let’s break it down.
Defining media neutrality
Simply put, when an agency is media neutral, it means they have no investment or bias in any one particular property, channel, or vendor. What matters is what’s best for the client – not lining the agency’s pockets.
At the end of the day, what should matter to both the agency and the client is one thing and one thing only: results. After all, if the client wins, the agency wins too! But unfortunately, media neutrality is not the standard in the industry. It’s usually easier for an agency to choose the vendor who will benefit them the most. As the client, you pay the price – without even realizing it.
Why media neutrality matters
Let’s say an advertising agency is working with a client, a new dental office seeking to build brand awareness and gain new patients. The agency has a strong relationship with a particular outdoor advertising company, and they get a kickback every time they place a billboard with the outdoor company. Obviously, they now have lots of incentive to place billboards. They place billboards all over the city for the dentist. At first, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this strategy – awareness is up, the dentist is getting lots of new patients, and everyone’s happy!
But once those billboards have been running for a while, the dentist starts to see diminishing returns. The billboards have been up for so long, they’ve lost their power to win over new patients. A media neutral agency would be able to pivot their strategy and start placing their media spend further down the funnel to nurture conversions. But since this agency has a quid pro quo relationship with the outdoor agency, they are likely to continue to spend the dentist’s money wherever they could get the most back for it in the short term: the same outdoor company that placed the now poorly performing billboards. Eventually the dentist gets frustrated and moves on to another agency that has fresh ideas…for now. Sound familiar?
Benefits of media neutrality
As you can see, if your agency isn’t media neutral, you could be paying a lot of hidden costs. The fact is: once an agency has a vested interest in a particular vendor or channel, you can’t trust they’ll do what’s best for you. When working with an agency that is truly media neutral:
Your needs are top priority. Media neutrality allows the agency to serve the needs of the client rather than themselves. An agency with a vested interest in certain media or ad space is always going to try to guide you towards what benefits them.
Campaigns are nimbler. In the fast-paced world of digital advertising, you can’t just set and forget a campaign (unless you don’t mind wasting your media dollars). If your agency isn’t beholden to certain vendors or channels, they’ll feel much freer to make changes and move your media spend where it will benefit you. If something isn’t working, a media neutral agency has every incentive to adapt and find what does work. After all, if you win, they win.
You’ll gain overall confidence in your agency. If your agency is not media neutral, even if they claim they will still do what’s right for you, despite the incentive to do otherwise – you’ll always have a little sense of doubt. Sure, they claim they have your best interests at heart, but…do they? You have no way of knowing for sure. Knowing that your agency is media neutral can give you a sense of security and confidence.
Media neutrality isn’t just a nice thing to have – if you’re looking for success in your campaigns and your relationship with an agency, it should be non-negotiable. A team that’s media neutral has every incentive to do what’s best for you, always. At Media Place Partners, we are proud to hold media neutrality as one of our five guiding principles.