NEWS ANALYSIS: Carlton’s online booking facility may signal new dawn for sales - Can online packages really revolutionise advertising sales, asks Rachel Minter?

Carlton Television has taken the plunge. But does its decision to offer discounted packages for advertisers who book online mark a new dawn, where sales job descriptions will be redefined?

Carlton Television has taken the plunge. But does its decision to

offer discounted packages for advertisers who book online mark a new

dawn, where sales job descriptions will be redefined?



Other TV stations have plans to trade online, but Carlton is the first

to dip its toe into these uncharted waters.



Channel 5 remains cloak and dagger about its plans, although it won’t

stay out of the picture for long. TSMS is developing a website

specifically for buyers that will include clips of TV programmes and

sponsorship packages. Flextech is working on a similar facility in a

joint venture with Telewest.



However, online trading is riddled with issues that need ironing out

before the new system can be taken on seriously.



On the whole, TV companies are shying away from placing valuable

peaktime slots online and sticking to sponsorship package deals or

digital airtime.



Channel 4 has gone further than most. Its head of client sales Mike

Parker says the station has no plans to trade online.



Parker suggests online trading would devalue the channel’s brand. ’This

sort of sell represents a loss of control over your market,’ he says

Critics also point out that buying airtime online will confuse pricing

What happens at the big TV stations where airtime value changes

daily?



One agency source says: ’You can’t take negotiation out of selling

airtime. Not unless you want to reintroduce the less sophisticated fixed

ratecard approach.’



Observers are also concerned that while the online purchase of airtime

makes sense for off-peak slots in the short term, this may not be the

case for longstanding negotiation and peak airtime.



David Jowett, deputy broadcast director at MediaCom TMB, asks: ’When

slots such as ITV’s Euro 2004 start appearing online, where will the

money come from? It’s back to the dotcom analogy of either short-term

money on a fixed rate online, or withholding long-term agreements. What

happens to the traditional client who agrees deals 12 months in

advance?’



Buyers aren’t convinced about cross-selling online either. Carlton is

now selling cross-media packages, cinema and TV. Buyers suggest this

could turn into a conditional sell whereby the advertiser may be forced

to purchase redundant airtime lumped together with another medium in

order to get the deal it really wants.



But these reservations haven’t stopped buyers from being impressed with

the efficiency of online transactions. Nick Theakstone, TV broadcast

buying director at MediaVest UK, says: ’You can get the data you need

directly, taking or leaving what you want.’



Flextech’s sales director Mark Howe agrees. He also believes it’s a

godsend for sales staff. ’Unhampered by pricing and processing, it

allows sales people to focus on the creative sell.’



So what will the future hold? Buyers and sales people agree that online

trading operates sufficiently as another window for advertisers to get

information. But the future depends on the process operating on a

mutually beneficial basis for both buyer and seller.