Sushi, sashimi, teriyaki. Add that and some spice to Dentsu Media’s expected grill party before industry bodies such as the Advertising Agencies Association of India, related to its new online auction for TV ad time called Lastminuteinventory.com. Dentsu’s peers fear there are ethical and business conflicts where the ad buyer is also a third-party ad seller.
The latest buzz is that the site will allow sellers a “no-obligation to sell”, even to the highest bidder. Buyers say that such platforms must be neutral to both buyer and seller. With such clauses, sellers could use the auction as a testing ground to merely check the market worth of their properties. Though such a move could attract more sellers to the site, power, which has always resided with the media buyer, veers towards the seller. Of course, some powerful sellers have a small stake in this site.
Another new revelation is that buyers would not know who they are bidding against on this site or who won the deal against them, say media specialists. That’s equivalent to shadow boxing, if true: anonymity could allow some media sellers to use the site last-minute to see if they could swing a better price for their technically already-sold ad time. The door-to-foxy-price manipulations is opened wide. What’s to stop an ad seller from getting a “shadow” rival to boost the bid price on his own property? Everyone’s aware that media buyers will use such online pricing as benchmark to negotiate with sellers offline or across the table for the same property.
Transparency and neutrality are the usual concerns when buyer and seller are the same party. Will client information be kept confidential or leaked to rivals? Buying decisions could get less media-neutral—buyers may advocate more spends on the media/titles they sell for.
I, however, feel that with everyone now buying and selling, can we stop this unrelenting tide? Do we skewer every Google Inc., Nokia Oyj, Microsoft Corp., WPP Group—every telecom, technology and holding communications group, which is buying ad and digital firms to become ad buyer and seller?
Some buyers retort that a Microsoft selling media is hardly the same as dealing with multinationals’ mammoth media budgets. They say the digital world is currently nascent, unlike television.
Yes, I’d be surprised if big media buyers actively supported Dentsu’s site. Will some start their own?
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com