Advertising is about colour and flair. About gymkhana relationships and leveraging them, especially in the cut-throat arena of media buying. So, it’s with some intrigue that I listen to news of Dentsu Communications Ltd launching an online advertising auction called lastminuteinventory.com. The good news is that it should monetize the remaining advertising inventory for broadcasters, since about 15% of total inventory is unsold in the television space. The sad tidings are that, at the click of a mouse, it threatens to dull the potency of those flesh-pressing, networking soirees so loved by the media community.
Media buying is hardly about level playing fields. It’s about power and muscle. Media buyers who command big clients’ hefty advertising budgets usually get better rates and discounts at the negotiating table. Suddenly, a strange, unnatural democracy will creep in. Smaller media buyers will be able to bid for leftover commercial time on some struggling—or even successful—TV channel. And, even if they are not on back-slapping terms with that channel’s owner, get the same rates as well-connected media buyers would.
There’s innovation waiting to be born here. How about a hybrid site, which mixes a social networking site for the media buying community with such auctions? That way, you get to network—and gripe—with peers and media owners, after buying your spot.
If the Dentsu site works, expect advertising inventory beyond leftovers to be hawked this way. Online advertising time for giant portals such as MSN and AOL is being successfully sold overseas via online bids. New York-based Enversa Ltd has developed a system which has enabled 90-plus auctions among agencies, media buyers and, at times, advertisers who bid directly. Advertisers have got rates 30-40% below offline negotiations and the sites have got bulk sales in a few hours.
It is telling that a leading print media house and two broadcast giants seem to be picking up stake in the Dentsu site, which could give them first right of way to hawk their own print or televison ad space. With content owners and media buyers creating, selling and buying ad space, issues related to conflict of advertiser interests and biased buy-decisions will prevail. The transparency and value-added efficiency that these auctions promise are, however, too attractive to ignore. Keep your eyes peeled for ‘eBay For Media’ auctions.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org