Wanted: A Trade Hub for Online Media Buyers

After almost six years in this business, I’ve developed a pretty good BS detector. For the most part, I can sniff out service companies and media vendors selling services that don’t work as advertised. As the market matures and more companies enter our space, the bandwidth to and from my BS detector is filling up. Like many online media planners, I don’t have the time to evaluate every single piece of technology that promises to make online advertising easier or more effective for my clients.

Where there is scarcity, there is a business opportunity. Speaking for the online media planning community, we could use some help in evaluating all the new technology and service offerings that become available to us. An enterprising publisher could make a bundle with a magazine or web site that serves as a sort of CNet for the online advertising community.

It’s more important than it ever was to understand how most of our online advertising news comes to us. Company XYZ releases an offering to advertisers. Let’s say it’s an optimization engine. XYZ then has its PR agency put together a press release claiming that the XYZ optimization engine increases advertising effectiveness 900 percent. Journalists covering the space pick up the press release and write a feature article that rarely amounts to more than a rehashing of the press release.

When the PR hits the newsstands, online media planners get hit with a barrage of emails from folks in their company: “Have you seen XYZ’s optimization engine? Why aren’t we using this?” These planners, still busy evaluating ABC’s optimization engine from the week prior, see these emails or the press articles and ask themselves, “Did anybody really kick the tires on this thing?”

Does anybody else see anything wrong with this? I do. I think it’s time for publishers in the online advertising space to help us out with some responsible coverage. We’re well past the point when the mindless regurgitation of press releases is an accepted way of serving the online advertising community.

What we need is a PC Magazine for the online advertising community. Something to help filter out all the useless vaporware and stretched claims that seem to be perpetuating our industry. Some articles I’d like to see…

  • Ad exchanges: Which ones are worth your time?

  • Which rich media formats can be implemented with less than a month’s lead time?
  • Technology shootout: We test agency-side third-party ad management offerings
  • Broadband advertising: Who can deliver?

Where are the articles that showcase features, compare and contrast offerings, and generally help the online media professional determine where his or her time should best be spent?

Online media folks are looking for a trusted, unbiased source to help them evaluate the overwhelming number of offerings coming their way. Here’s an example of how not to do it:

The following quotes, penned by Masha Geller, appeared in MediaPost’s new Media magazine. Entitled “Are You Ready for Ad Exchanges?” the piece outlines the various players in the B2B ad exchange market. My comments appear below each quote in bold.

“Services that call themselves ad exchanges and allow media buyers and planners to develop advertising campaigns from the initial research and planning stage all the way through buying and trafficking are all the rage online, and the field is getting crowded.”

Great. Tell me all about who the players are and which of them does the best job, in your opinion. Which player actually promotes efficiency? Which has a crummy offering that slows buyers down?

“Sellers post their inventory with OneMediaPlace, and buyers upload their buying criteria: target, flights, budget, geography, etc. Sellers then view the order and respond; buyers view offers, negotiate, and close the buy. Sounds like an exchange, right? The concept intrigued more than 10,000 media buyers to register and established the OneMediaPlace guys as leaders in the field.”

So OneMediaPlace is the industry leader because they have 10,000 registered media buyers? Forget that. What I want to know is how these 10,000 perceived the experience. Did they get better rates? Was the buying process simpler? How many of the 10,000 continue to buy media from OneMediaPlace, and how many abandoned the service?

“Another new exchange platform, immediabuy.com, is worth a mention here not because it’s part of the company backing this magazine (which it is)…”

Plugging your company’s own offering, even if disclosed, is not the greatest way to build trust among one’s readers. Unbiased coverage is.

“Ready or not, judging from how frantically companies are jumping into the race and how readily investors are supporting their endeavors, ad exchanges promise to make media buyers’ lives a whole lot easier all we have to do is sit back and let them do away with the inefficiencies of the media planning and buying process and open doors to new opportunities for both buyers and sellers.”

If only it were that easy… Just because investors and an unspecified number of companies support something doesn’t mean that it works well or that it’s achieving its objective. Bring me the quote from the interactive media director that supports this ad exchange or from the one that didn’t like the experience. Tell me which ad agencies are using which exchanges and why.

The article describes the major players in the media exchange business, quoting execs from those exchanges extensively but failing to carry a single quote from a planner or buyer. Great. Big help. And, unfortunately, pretty typical of the type of coverage this industry is accustomed to.

Anybody else sick of the fluff? I sure am. There’s certainly an opportunity for a publisher to designate a staff to evaluate online media buying-related products and services and conduct unbiased evaluations.

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