Welcome To The Next Seller's Market

There were a ton of lessons to come out of OMMA Hollywood last week. As the person who programmed the show, monitored each of 40 sessions, solicited feedback on over 100 speakers, and generally took the pulse of the audience on the show's content, no lessons were more salient to me than this: we're officially in a seller's market.

Here's the evidence for this trend I saw at the show:

  • The fullest rooms and the liveliest post-session discussions featured publishers and, in particular, new inventory options from publishers--and, even more specifically, new video inventory options from publishers. That's except for when behavioral targeting sessions ran concurrently. I made the mistake of programming "On Their Best Behavioral" at the same time as "Video in the Media Mix," and saw many attendees streaming between them, nearly colliding like packets on a congested network.

  • The first day's Keynote Panel featured executives from AOL, Yahoo!,, Disney and MSNBC. It positively crackled, as an audience of hundreds of media buyers and planners hung on these publishers' words. It wasn't long ago that a panel of publishers was read by many on the agenda as a 'networking break.' Now it's must-attend content.



  • Even the second day's Keynote Panel, which was comprised entirely of client-side marketers, was hijacked by a publisher perspective. Shawn Gold, senior vice president of marketing at was on the panel, and the audience's interest in Hilton and ConAgra and Universal Pictures and Unilever was overshadowed by their preoccupation with turning teens on Shawn's site into brand ambassadors.

  • There was far more circling back during track sessions and even in hallway conversations to the impact of social networks on media planning, than there was to the formation of Denuo and other issues of agency organization.

  • Talent is being poached by brand marketers from publishers (like Doug Neil at Universal Pictures, via AOL) instead of the other way around (remember Yahoo's coup three years ago in luring Cammie Dunaway away from Frito Lay?).

    Only a few years ago, the entire industry hitched its wagon to comments by people like Larry Light at McDonald's, or research by Rex Briggs at Marketing Evolution. At that point I would have taken Coca-Cola's Webmaster as a conference keynote, and allowed him to spend 45 minutes talking about meta tags and referrers. A few weeks before OMMA Hollywood, by contrast, I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the director of media and communication at Coca-Cola about his proposed role at the show. He noted that he was looking forward to telling the Coke story on stage. "We're doing amazing work with wireless and gaming in Europe and Asia, and it's time we get some credit for it, instead of it all going to Yahoo," he said. One of the world's biggest advertisers chomping at the bit to steal an online publisher's thunder? Times have changed.

    There are a thousand reasons for this shift in the market equilibrium, and while identifying, vetting and ranking them would be an entertaining and self-congratulatory debate, I'll leave it to someone else. At some point in the past year, online had its Chuck Fruit moment. It had a thousand Chuck Fruit moments. So here we are-- now what do we do to smooth out the valley that will inevitably follow this peak?

    So far it looks like we're doing what we did last time:

  • Google is raising another couple billion dollars, and joining a VC firm is suddenly fashionable again.

  • The press release wars have been joined again (and the battle has expanded into the blogosphere).

  • Start-ups (particularly in social media) are leading with their exit strategy once more, aiming more at getting acquired than building a sustainable business.

  • We're scheduling, programming, promoting, sponsoring and attending industry events with a fervor not seen since 2000.

    None of this is bad, of course (particularly the last bit about events). But as we go down this road again, we have to be mindful--vigilant, even--about remembering previous missteps. Now would be a good time to reread business plans or strategy powerpoints from 2000--not for resurrectible ideas, but retrospective wisdom. They may be the closest things we have to a diary, like this one that I found excerpted on a blog just today.

    An 11-year-old boy began this diary in 1946, and revisited his entries almost four years later. "I found this diary and read it. I sure must have been girl crazy," he reflects. I hope we can be as wise about our future as a 15-year-old was about his past.

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