Publishers are about to get another option to deal with remnant ad space. Adauction.com, an online ad auction site, opens its doors to traditional media this week when it holds its first auction for print space.
The auction starts April 23 and will last two weeks; it will include five to 10 regional ads from national magazines. Publishers were undisclosed.
The site plans to hold formal print auctions monthly, with pages that come in at other times of the month ending up in Adauction's Opportunity Exchange, an ongoing 24-hour-a-day auction area.
By fall, it plans to begin auctions for expiring broadcast and outdoor ad inventory.
Adauction helps publishers unload last-minute inventory, said Neil Cohen, senior VP-business affairs at Adauction.com.
"First, you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to sell this page at a discount," Mr. Cohen said, noting that traditionally, remnant space sells between 20 to 40 cents on the dollar. "Second, you're burning political capital with people by suddenly slashing your prices."
Auctioning remnant space also frees the sales force to pursue larger ad buys.
PRINT SALE TEST
Earlier this month, Adauction tested a print sale when it auctioned off a page from a San Francisco and Los Angeles regional edition of Stagebill magazine. The page sold for $4,000 to online wine retailer Virtual Vineyards.
"For us it's a win-win," said Shira Kalish, publisher of Stagebill who said she was happy with the rate it got for the ad.
"It's introducing us to new accounts, other than our current advertising base," she said, adding that it would definitely use the service again to sell last-minute space.
Adauction, which held its first auction of Web ad impressions a year ago, now has sold space for online publishers, including Yahoo!, Spinner and E! Online.
It also has a database of 3,000 prequalified media buyers, which it's expanding with print and broadcast buyers. Mr. Cohen said it expects to have 10,000 buyers by 2000.
To help recruit buyers, it recently named Andrew McColough, formerly publisher of Time Inc.'s This Old House Books, general manager and VP-print media sales, and Steve Pechman, formerly VP-general sales manager at Fox Sports South, as general manager, VP-broadcast media sales.
MORE THAN SCRAPS
Adauction envisions itself as more than just a place for scrap inventory, as seen by its growing Web services. They include scheduled auctions, Tune-in, for topic-specific auctions and ProxyMan, a service that allows buyers to place bids without attending an auction.
In May it's relaunching its site, positioning it as vertical portal for media buyers, with customized news and tools, as well as online research. It's in talks with an undisclosed researcher now to provide that service.
"We're a place for media buyers to conduct their business on a day-to-day basis," Mr. Cohen said.
He sees the site as an alternative sales channel for publishers who want to sell a portion of their ads through Adauction at full price. He eventually views the site as a place where buyers can do convergent buys, across online, print, broadcast and outdoor.
How quickly or whether traditional media buyers and sellers adopt the system is unclear.
"They have a monumental task ahead of them," said Drew Ianni, analyst at Jupiter Communications. Adauction faces a "very entrenched industry," and it's going to be a challenge to change the way these people do business. At the same time, Mr. Ianni praised the company for a "forwarding-looking attempt to change how media is bought--both online and offline."
Online buying will migrate online, Mr. Ianni believes, since it's more efficient than the way it's done today. "It's inevitable; it will happen," he said. Adauction's advantage might be its technology expertise, he added.
Mr. Cohen concedes it isn't an easy sell. It's promoting the service with a $2 million trade campaign created by Ingalls Moranville Advertising, San Francisco. It's also sponsoring seminars in major U.S. cities for media buyers.
"Everybody is always somewhat skeptical of something new," Mr. Cohen said. But "once you explain the proposition, people quickly come on board."
Carol McDonald, VP-print media manager at DDB Needham, Chicago, likes being able to buy remnant space. "I think it's a great idea," she said, especially if Adauction e-mailed buyers about upcoming sales relevant to their clients.
Stagebill's Ms. Kalish isn't sure if she's ready to sell space other than remnant through Adauction.
"At this point it's not how print space is sold, so I haven't considered it for that," she said. "I don't think any publisher is going to reserve space at highly discounted prices."
Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.