Will agencies and buyers book spots online?

April 19, 2007 by Dave Haynes

There has been much noise about Google moving beyond online advertising and trying to take its model into mainstream media, and emerging media such as digital sign networks.

Along with this behemoth, eBay is working on a media buying marketplace, and there are much smaller companies trying to get traction in this space – the thinking being that single-source media buying is awfully attractive to planners who are besieged by a vast number of different media plays, all day, every day.

The idea of booking ad campaigns entirely online, particularly if they are the simple, contextual text ads that Google trades in, makes perfect sense and has been shown to work. But an awful lot of the text ads you see are for companies that buy little or no conventional media.

Will a mainstream media buyers do the same thing for radio, TV and digital screen networks?

Ed Voltan, one of the more respected guys in the Canadian media sales game, and longtime head of the waiting room TV network PHSN, passed along a piece from today’s Media Life that raises questions about the whole notion.

Plans to create an electronic marketplace for buying and selling media have been kicking around for years, and the latest comes from eBay, but it looks as through those behind it will have a real struggle on their hands selling the idea to media planners and buyers.

While some media people concede the system would make some aspects of their lives easier, the overwhelming sentiment is one of doubt and distrust, according to a recent Media Life poll of its readers.

It would mean giving up a lot of the face-to-face that’s at the heart of negotiating media buys. And media people don’t believe it could ever play a role in the complex deal-making, such as cross-media deals, that’s an increasingly important part of the business.

“Just because something is technically possible doesn’t mean it’s the best way to achieve a goal,” wrote one poll respondent.

“This electronic ‘commodity’ concept of eBay’s may be technically feasible, but is it the most effective way to acquire media for clients? I think not. The buying and selling process is more than just a commodity exchange.”

Wrote another: “Buying gross rating points by the ‘bucket’ makes it a commodity buy, like corn from a hopper. A pure electronic system, without a brain on both sides of the keyboard, can cause an advertiser to lose opportunities and falsely conclude that ‘TV doesn’t work.'”

Respondents like the efficiency such a system would bring, and the speed at which campaigns could get organized and booked.

However, a big impediment was simple tradition. If I am reading the article correctly, 30 per cent of the people polled agreed with this: “Many people in this business enjoy the old way of doing things, and not because it’s more efficient but because that’s how it’s always been done.”

They like the lunches. The launch events. Schmoozing. Making the rounds.

Who wouldn’t when confronted with an alternative that is about as exciting as booking a car rental online?

The REALLY interesting question and answer: How long would it take for an electronic buying system to become accepted in the media community.

Nearly 25 per cent said never.

There are guys like Rob Gorrie from AdCentricity that are going hard at single source buying and a much more electronically driven sales process, and I know he is getting some traction. I am sure he will weigh in here, but from what I am hearing and reading this whole thing looks like something that will evolve.

Few buyers will just stop seeing people and learning about new media environments and just start booking online. There will still need to be meetings and schmoozing and massaging deals. But there may be fewer people doing it, and the noise in the marketplace might be a little softer, or easier to listen to.

  1. Bill Gerba says:

    Media buyers and planners neither spend advertising dollars nor own advertising inventory, they’re just a middle-man. As such, they’re in a prime position to get squeezed on both ends. I suspect they’ll get into the same situation that many travel agents are in now. Those who do nothing more than book spots and charge a premium will be put out of business by pure electronic placements. But those few really great, really really savvy buyers who can always find the best deal and use their knowledge and experience to get the best placements will do well. Will they have to work hard? Yeah, but why shouldn’t they have to?

  2. […] , Advertising  Dave Haynes over at Screen Media posted a great post+article on his blog: Will agencies and buyers book spots online?. (Thanks for the podium Dave […]

  3. Rob Gorrie says:

    Good post and great topic! You’ve got me on a creative day. I thought I’d add to the discussion on my blog HERE

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