After eBay Gets Nod, Others Join Media Trading e-Fray

A committee of senior marketing executives chose eBay to provide the digital infrastructure for the $50 million "test phase" of a new online media trading system on May 12, but a bevy of other ad brokers are stepping forward to point out that something like an Internet media trading system already exists--in fact, there are a couple.

The senior marketing executives--mostly drawn from the memberships of the AAAA's and ANA--were acting at the request of Julie Roehm, vice president of marketing communications for Wal-Mart, and a host of other industry heavyweights, and they chose eBay because of its established reputation in online transactions. With billions of dollars on the line (Roehm alone is said to direct a $2 billion annual budget), it's doubtful that the smaller, relatively untested contenders even made it into the first-round cut. Still, their models paint a portrait of innovation in online media sales thus far.

A week after the eBay announcement, for example, a company called Strata Marketing was trumpeting its partnership with Spot Buy Spot (a play on the phrase "spot by spot") to allow online media transactions for broadcast and cable TV and radio--including buying, revisions, makegoods, rejections, and cancellations. The Spot Buy Spot Web site says it gives "real-time access to your sales, billing and accounting data"--an impressive claim that seems to put it on a par with eBay. About 800 media buying agencies nationwide have adopted Strata's software--but the result, as described by the Spot Buy Spot Web site, might well make media buyers uneasy: "Billing and finance operations were streamlined from a largely manual process to a 'factory-like' system--entirely reducing the need for an 80-person office dedicated to the task!"

Meanwhile, an online broker for radio spot sales, Bid4Spots, has also seized on the eBay announcement to promote its reverse auctions system, which has been in place since September 2005. In the Bid4Spots model, various radio stations' remnant inventory is sold once a week in online reverse auctions, with bidding on a CPM basis. Subsequently, Google stirred further interest in online radio ad auctions with its January announcement that it was purchasing dMarc--a small, California-based online radio ad broker that provides minute-by-minute transactions through an online interface.