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Moving toward an exchange-based media world

There was a time when an adman enjoyed the good life. The world was at his fingers as brands took shape in smoky boardrooms. After all, his boss practically invented the craft of modern advertising itself. Three-martini lunches smoothed out the afternoon before he closed the deal and headed home to his family in his brand-new Cadillac.

I will go on a limb to say that the majority of today’s traditional advertising workforce has a very different daily pattern. After years of consolidating media firms under a handful of conglomerates, the exchange concept upon which search engine marketing is predicated has completely shifted media strategy, planning, buying and optimization.

As a result, the upfront has gone the way of smoking cigars in the boardroom and downing liquor with the client. Some might say that if the modern adman would like to keep his job, he should leave Madison Avenue and start studying the mechanics of Wall Street.

While Overture introduced the media exchange model, it is Google pushing the envelope today. If there is an upfront to be had, Google wants it. All of it. Rumors that the firm is dedicating global account leads to sell its entire suite of media to the Fortune 1000 have agencies questioning just how long it will be before they are completely disintermediated.

RightMedia, which operates an open marketplace for online media, predicts that an exchange model for display will result in growth along the lines of what search engine marketing experienced over the past five years. Founder Michael Walrath detailed this thinking in a prolific all-employee email posted on the firm’s blog. Like search, display simply needs an exchange model to be properly monetized and eliminate waste.

Replace “display” with “lead generation,” and you have the model for Root Markets, a transparent marketplace for mortgage leads.

The popularity of a transparent marketplace has even taken the first steps towards the offline world. Late last year a task force revealed that eBay had been tapped to develop an exchange for an early set of advertisers insisting on a “Nasdaq-like” marketplace for buying and selling advertising. This time, it was the big TV network execs shaking in their boots. I would too, if it were my job to sell network advertising.

In an exchange-based media world, “closing the deal” seems like an antiquated concept. Will media sales completely disappear? Probably not. However, coffee will probably be reserved for the yield managers, and not “the closers.”

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