NEWS ANALYSIS - Optimedia aims to set the pace by launching i-traders division - But is it jumping the gun by merging new-media and TV arms, asks

Optimedia’s plan to create a department of ’i-traders’ who will buy across TV, digital TV, WAP and online is ’two years ahead of its time’, according to one rival.

Optimedia’s plan to create a department of ’i-traders’ who will buy

across TV, digital TV, WAP and online is ’two years ahead of its time’,

according to one rival.



Strangely, this was not meant as praise but as criticism. The critic in

question points out that although the word ’convergence’ has slipped

into common media parlance, TV and the internet are still distinct media

that should be sold by distinct sales teams.



His argument is supported by the fact that many media shops have spent

the last two years hiving off their net experts from their traditional

buying/planning divisions.



Nick Theakstone, TV broadcast director at MediaVest, comments: ’People

have created separate divisions because these are two very complicated

markets. It is a full-time job trying to keep up with either TV or the

net. We wouldn’t expect our new-media department to be able to buy TV

and vice-versa. Instead, we aim to keep the two departments working in

tandem.’



Is it possible that Optimedia, under managing director Simon Mathews,

has jumped the gun by asking TV buyers to trade net space too?



Greg Turzynski, managing partner at the agency - and the man with the

’i-trader’ plan - does not think so: ’Only two years ahead of our

time?



I heard someone say three years, which makes me very happy. There are

going to be a few people suffering ’not invented here syndrome’, but

they know this is the way things are moving.’



Not only can Turzynski cite the mounting evidence of convergence, he

also points out that the buying principles behind both new media and TV

are the same.



’Using new tools such as Nielsen Net Ratings, buyers can see how a

banner is performing and relocate it to optimise its effectiveness. In

this sense, buying new media is very similar to buying TV,’ he says.



What Turzynski does not mention - and it could be a significant factor -

is the positive effect of creating this department in terms of boosting

staff morale and attracting new employees. With a shortage of experience

in the market and new-media opportunities multiplying, it makes sense

for Optimedia to be seen as a cutting-edge player. And insiders report

there is ’more excitement in the TV department than in a long time’.



Although some agencies may feel their offering is superior to that of

Optimedia, others, such as Carat (who would not comment), are believed

to have been planning very similar divisions.



As for the major TV sales houses such as Carlton, Granada, TSMS and Sky,

all four are already selling packages that include web space and

airtime.



They are also starting to role out interactive packages using a variety

of platforms.



David Sanderson, head of Carlton Digital Sales, comments: ’We constantly

encourage buyers to overlap web and TV activity. Convergence is coming

and both buyers and sellers will have to learn to cross some of the old

boundaries.’



Optimedia may be ahead of its time but that is where it wants to be -

and who would bet against a raft of similar moves from other agencies

and media owners in the near future?