Astute observers of the controversial eBay-enabled online buying and selling exchange for cable TV time may have wondered about the conspicuous absence of one marketer in particular: eBay. After all, the tech company had been under siege since the spring for devising a system with flawed functionality — and what better way to show its faith than to start using it to deploy its own substantial media dollars? Maybe they’d just watched Scarface one too many times and didn’t want to get high on their own supply.
Then, before the holidays the Internet retailer went face first into its stash and made several buys for its “Shop Victoriously” campaign. “We always planned to leverage the system, and this was the time that made the most sense,” an eBay rep said. Until then, eBay’s marketing team had stood on the sidelines as a cadre of others such as Home Depot, Microsoft and HP had touted the eBay Media Marketplace publicly and tried to get networks to agree to sell inventory through it.
The big guys all balked — ostensibly, according to the head of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, because eBay failed to understand the niceties of the sales process while building the system, and thus failed to come up with something that would make buying “either more effective or more efficient.”
But some thought the CAB had a smoke screen going, with the real reason networks refused to use the system being a fear it would turn their inventory into a commodity and lead to lower pricing. Advocates weren’t helped when some prominent agency executives also blasted the system’s raison d’être.
The Marketplace eventually launched and some networks, including Oxygen and TV One made deals, but it will be a struggle to gain wider appeal. At least eBay can’t be accused of hypocrisy, anymore. Too bad they still don’t get to sleep with Michelle Pfeiffer, though.