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Will Google/CBS Start an Online Media-Buying Auction?

AWNY Panel: Initiative's Spengler Expects Deal to Deliver One

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It was hot news in 2006, but will online media-buying auctions be even bigger news in 2007?
Tim Spengler
Tim Spengler

"That will be up to the media, primarily the cable networks," Tim Spengler, chief activation officer at Initiative North America, said at a breakfast this morning sponsored by the Advertising Women of New York. The title of the event was "What's Hot for 2007?" and auction buying, research challenges and multiplatform-media deals were the themes of the day.

Several major advertisers have been working with eBay to set up an auction-based buying system for TV time; so far the interest has been limited to cable networks.

Furthering the conversation
Mr. Spengler stopped short of endorsing an online model but said he believed there would be a big announcement with CBS and Google for testing an online auction with local media. "That will push the conversation further." Later, he added, "The notion of being able to buy something more efficiently and transparently -- that's what's attractive about it."

Jackie Seligman, Universal McCann's director-print services, noted auction experiments hadn't worked well in the magazine space, saying that one publisher had sold its inventory and then the buyer of that inventory got stuck with it.

"With monthlies," she said, "there's not much of an immediacy factor."

More standardization needed
Connie Garrido, president of Wow Factory, brushed off suggestions that outdoor could work within such a model, despite Google last week filing a patent for how it would make interactive outdoor billboards work. "We'd need more standardization across the industry," she said.

Much of the conversation also focused on research and whether there would be innovation in the area in 2007.

"Innovation in research?" asked Matt Feinberg, senior VP-radio and director of broadcast extensions in Zenith's national-broadcast department. "We're not relying solely on research companies ... but are going after it ourselves. No one can sit back and wait [for better research]." Specifically he said he was working on how to track terrestrial and digital impressions.

'How?'
Ms. Garrido said she's struggling with something similar: how to add up all the various out of home impressions, including cinema, traditional outdoor, place-based or bar media, when some are richer than others. "How do you bring that together and say that's what you're reaching? You can't," she said.

Everyone on the panel agreed traditional-media companies, if they want to make more money in the digital age, needed to extend their present platforms.

Be a content company
"The game shouldn't be 'How do I do everything like I did 10 years ago and make more money?'" Mr. Spengler said. He said a company like ESPN is a good example of a media brand that is strong in all the relevant platforms, including print, on-air and online. "A conversation with them can have a bigger impact than anywhere else."

"We're at a point in history where no one's limited by terrestrial technology," Mr. Feinberg said. "Digital puts all on the same playing field. ... You need to stop [thinking about] what you were in the 20th century and become a content company."
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