MEDIA FORUM: Is Optimedia right to unite TV and online buying? - Optimedia closed its TV buying department last week. Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of the world as we know it. The department has been replaced with something bigger and be

When it comes to buying online media, communications specialists tend to fall into two categories. There are those that believe it’s a branch of the science fiction industry to be handled by dweeb clones who’ve had their DNA genetically modified and who work well away from the day-to-day business of media buying. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe it’s something the planners could handle in their lunch breaks.

When it comes to buying online media, communications specialists

tend to fall into two categories. There are those that believe it’s a

branch of the science fiction industry to be handled by dweeb clones

who’ve had their DNA genetically modified and who work well away from

the day-to-day business of media buying. At the other end of the

spectrum, there are those who believe it’s something the planners could

handle in their lunch breaks.



It’s strange that no-one’s ever thought of trying a third way: giving it

to people who specialise in buying. People who specialise in electronic

media - and realtime electronic media at that. They’re called time

buyers.



Actually, that’s not true. Someone has just thought of it -

Optimedia.



Optimedia’s managers have not only come up with the idea, they’ve gone

and restructured their whole set-up in its honour. Until last week,

Optimedia personified the second of the two main online mindsets. Not

any longer.



Last week Optimedia did away with the time buying department as was,

rebranded it as i-trade and gave extra online buying responsibilities to

airtime traders.



Is this a brave move? It’s obviously a great idea in theory but, to the

casual observer, there does seem to be a couple of flaws. One of which

is time buyer culture. Traditionally, the time buying floor has more

than occasionally played host to characters who’ve inhabited a Lock,

Stock and Two Smoking Barrels sort of a universe, with interpersonal

skills straight out of the Kray Twins Book of Etiquette. Surely online

buying calls for a degree of finesse not normally associated with the TV

market?



Not so, counters Greg Turzynski, a managing partner of Optimedia. For a

start, the cheap shots are decades out of date - the truth is that time

buyers are experts in negotiating their way around a fast-moving and

complex trading environment. And when you get down to it, the mechanics

of executing the right purchase are remarkably similar in online,

especially if you give time buyers the right systems to work with.

Optimedia is one of the first London media specialists to access the

online trading currency used in the US, Nielsen Net Ratings, and a

system called DART, which allows buyers to monitor campaign progress and

reconfigure it on a continuous basis. Buyers will also be brought up to

speed in direct response buying models - the most efficient way to

approach this data-rich medium.



Turzynski states: ’I’m convinced everybody will be doing this soon.

Think of the alternative. If you have a separate room full of i-traders,

what happens to the TV buyers when the majority of TV starts to have an

interactive aspect to it? The TV buyers, who have huge amounts of skill

and experience, will do less and will become so demotivated they’ll

leave. TV buyers are in the best position to do all of this.’



Do others agree? Russell Boyman, a managing partner of Mediapolis,

doesn’t.



He comments: ’It looks fantastic on new-business pitches but whether it

has any value beyond that is open to question. The two areas will

converge, there is absolutely no question about that, but they haven’t

yet. Open (the interactive system on Sky’s digital platform) is hardly

up and running and cable is months away from being able to offer

anything in this area.’



At present, Boyman suggests, the mechanics of the two markets are miles

apart: ’Banner advertising is an under-researched medium and television

is over researched and highly systematised.



There is absolutely no common currency and the skill-sets are completely

incompatible. It’s a brave move on Optimedia’s part but I think they’ve

got ahead of themselves and the market. From our point of view, it’s

important that it all comes together further upstream on the strategic

planning side, rather than at the doing and buying end, and an

interactive strategy may need any number of different conduits. So the

strategic area is the important one and that’s where the merger must

take place.’



Mick Desmond, the chief executive of Granada Media Sales, is not so sure

about that. He suggests that Optimedia’s move mirrors what he’s

attempting to do on the sales side. He adds: ’With the exception of a

couple of buying points, our people on the online and television sides

talk to separate groups of people on the buying side but, in annualised

negotiations, the two sides are already coming together. For the

interactive sales side, the biggest advantage to be gained from

integration is increased information.’



But, he says, the implications are far bigger than that: ’This is not

just about the web, it’s about everything through to broadband

interactive opportunities. It’s all about to merge and when it does

we’ll be looking at the same advertising execution on different

platforms. That plays to our strengths because, with broadband, the

proposition moves from text to video and our strength is selling

advertising opportunities in video format.’



David Cuff, the broadcast director of Initiative Media (which recently

purchased the UK’s first interactive ad for Chicken Tonight), tends to

agree. He points out that the agency has a client group system with all

planners and buyers heavily involved in the development of overall brand

strategy. So Initiative doesn’t have a time buying department, which

makes its case slightly different.



Slightly, but not totally. Cuff adds: ’We have integrated online and

interactive buying within our client groups. Television people in those

groups do internet and digital TV. It’s certainly an interesting idea to

go through a rebranding exercise as Optimedia has - some agencies

already doing it won’t feel the same need to take that step. But, yes,

it makes sense for broadcast specialists to get involved in new media.

And the point is that what is called new media today will just be called

media in three years’ time. Broadcast specialists have skills that lend

themselves well to new media. What they are called isn’t the issue. It’s

important also to let people develop in the way they need to. If you

force people to specialise too narrowly they get bored quickly. It also

makes it difficult to attract the right standard of people.’