Participants did not want to discuss details, but one executive said the group will continue to forge ahead with or without Wal-Mart's participation. It is unclear whether Wal-Mart will remain part of the project given the surprise departure of Ms. Roehm, who was senior VP-marketing communications. Ms. Roehm, when she was a marketing executive with DaimlerChrysler, had famously raised the prospect of transforming the TV upfront ad period into something more akin to Nasdaq, where commercials might be traded in the open market.
The idea was criticized for being unworkable by many in the industry. Still, Ms. Roehm pursued the idea on a smaller scale, and got eBay involved in providing the technology to move ahead with the project.
The project is backed by both the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Other marketers involved in the launch include Toyota brand Lexus, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Home Depot, Intel and Brown-Forman. Marketers have committed around $50 million to an initial first phase. Cable executives have shown interest in the project, but it's still unclear whether any networks have committed airtime.
A good idea
"The support has grown across the board and Julie started the dialogue and brought it to the attention of everyone," one executive present at the meeting said. "The idea is a good one and the way it is morphing into a way of doing business is not a bad idea, the industry is supporting it now."
This executive stressed that the project was not a way to change the upfront, but simply a supplement to the current way of doing business.