Hoping to Be the Google for Media Planning

Media Morph: Balihoo

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Balihoo.
Balihoo CEO Pete Gombert
Balihoo CEO Pete Gombert

The aspiration: To be the Google for media planning. For three years, Balihoo spiders have crawled the web to discover websites of online and offline media properties marketers can buy.

How it works: A marketer or media planner can enter a category or genre -- say, kayaking -- and it'll return all the media properties about kayaking, as well as related media with similar demographic profiles -- including ones that might not be included in or subscribe to traditional media-planning tools such as Nielsen's SRDS service. While some marketers might do Google searches instead, Balihoo refines results to include only properties where advertisers can buy media.

There's no way for marketers to find all media properties where consumers are talking about a subject relevant to a particular product, CEO Pete Gombert said. "Nobody knows what all the relevant media opportunities are. ... We're trying uncover them."

What the beta testers are saying: "The information is great, easy to use," said Lynne Langlois, group account director at Carat USA, Boston. "We're looking for a more holistic view of media." Ms. Langlois was particularly intrigued by Balihoo's ratings feature -- the equivalent of consumer reviews -- in which agencies and marketers can categorize, tag and rate media properties.

The future: It's not hard to envision additional functions the service could provide. One option resembles a custom, ad hoc vertical network. For example, a marketer may find 50 online sites to target for a particular campaign, and Balihoo could package that request and send it to the media owners, giving them an offer to accept the buy. Mr. Gombert said it would allow media owners to take in money at more favorable rates than they might get from an ad network and give media buyers more transparency.
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