Ad-Selling Options: Finding the Right Fit

Our email box has been overflowing the past few weeks with questions about ad rep firms, ad networks, and ad sales pay packages. Seems we touched a nerve in writing about third-party sales firms and what to expect. The most common question this week went something like, “But who are these firms and how do I contact them?”

Long-time readers will recall our series of articles a year ago that covered third-party Internet ad sales firms, and newer readers are advised to go back to the ClickZ archives for the basics on selecting a rep firm. (See our articles published 5/24/99, 6/7/99, 6/14/99 and 7/12/99.) But a year is a long time in this fast-changing business, and the number of new firms, morphed firms, and merged firms made us realize it was time to revisit the subject with a fresh look at publisher options for outsourced sales.

Most of you know the oldest and most-established players: DoubleClick, Engage Media, and 24/7 Media. The Engage Media name is newer than the others, but the origins of the firm are not. Engage is the renamed entity that came together through mergers and acquisitions of Adsmart, Flycast, 2Can, and a number of other firms that have been in business since the early days.

More recently we’ve seen AdAuction.com become OneMediaPlace, TeknoSurf.com become Advertising.com, Image Networks become Clear Blue Media, L90 and Phase2Media emerge as major market forces, and every network and rep firm in the Internet business realign business models to respond to the competitive nature of this market. And these represent just some of the companies you could consider when looking for a sales organization.

Do you find the third-party sales arena confusing? Join the club there is no one paying attention to this market who is not confused at least some of the time.

To make matters worse, few of these businesses segment into the clear categories they did a year or two ago. Where you once found ad networks that bundled inventory from many sites as a distinct group from those rep firms that handled site-specific representation, many of the advertising sales firms today cross over service lines, offering something for everyone from high-end representation to bargain-basement sales of expiring inventory. At the same time, there are also firms differentiating themselves by taking specialized market positions, as Winstar Interactive and Cybereps do with their individual site representation approach. And just when we think we have it all sorted out, someone new jumps on the scene with another sales proposition.

No surprise then that we get dozens of emails from web site publishers looking for help in selling ad inventory, with no idea of how to conduct their sales-partner search or due diligence.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at the online advertising and email marketing sales firms in some depth, aiming to support publishers large and small in finding suitable sales partners that match their business realities. We’ll help you determine whether you have the audience that justifies a single site representation model or whether a low price network is best for you. And we’ll help you figure out how to approach the providers that make most sense for your business, since no site publisher we know has time to shop around among the dozens of options.

But to keep us honest, to screen out those biases we may not even know we have, we need to hear from you. Yes, you – this is an interactive medium after all.

Site publishers: Share your third-party ad sales stories. What did you go through to get a network or rep relationship that works for you, or what is still not working? If you’ve ever switched firms, what motivated the shift, and was the problem solved? What are your best tips for getting the most out of the relationship?

Networks: What do you want site publishers to know about how you work, what sorts of sites you are signing on, and what information would attract your interest in a new site to represent? Why would a site publisher want to work with you?

Send all of your thoughts to info@ryanwhiteman.com, and we’ll use it to update and inform our writing. Over the next several weeks, we’ll attempt to bring you the latest on the third-party ad sales confusion, with the hopes of simplifying the decision, just a bit, for each of you.

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