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
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
One agency source says: ’You can’t take negotiation out of selling
airtime. Not unless you want to reintroduce the less sophisticated fixed
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
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.