In the beginning, when the web first became popular, everyone talked about disintermediation, the idea that the Internet would help eliminate the middleman or intermediary. You could buy books without going to a bookstore, read newspapers without going to a newsstand, and communicate with like-minded folks without going to group therapy. And that was good.
And yet, book stores did not disappear, newspapers did not vanish, and therapists were still very much in business. This disintermediation was a complicated thing, and it was taking a while to really shift our habits. But then along came Overture and Google AdWords, and a real shift came to the advertising world. People could now buy ads by bidding on search keywords, and having their ads run alongside search results — resulting in a very interested audience for that ad. Plus, the advertiser would only pay for people who clicked through the ad, a “pay-per-click” system.
Advertising agencies have taken notice, but the worst is yet to come for them. Google is looking at placing its ads in newspapers and just bought a radio advertising service called dMarc Broadcasting that runs an auction system for placing ads on radio. Ad agencies are being disintermediated, and no one likes that.
If all this isn’t enough to rain on Madison Avenue’s parade, consider a new concept by the popular video weblog, Rocketboom. Rocketboom is a daily three-minute newscast hosted by perky Amanda Congdon, and produced by Andrew Baron. You can watch Rocketboom on its home page, or subscribe to its RSS news feed, but it’s not on any TV network (though there is a way to watch it on TiVo via Internet protocol).
The video blog is free of charge and had no advertising, but that will change. Today, Baron launched a fascinating auction on eBay, where anyone can bid to be the first advertiser on Rocketboom. The winning bidder will get five 15-second ads that Rocketboom will create for that product or service. And there’s one very strange caveat:
“We will work closely with the winner to make sure that their message will resonate with our viewers in a beneficial way for the winner,” the auction description states. “The bidder understands, however, that Rocketboom will have complete control over the commercials that we create.”
In other words, even if the advertiser doesn’t like the ads, Rocketboom will be able to run them as they like. But more radically, Rocketboom is taking the ad-selling process out of the hands of ad salespeople, out of the domain of ad agencies and media buyers, and going directly to companies. Of course, ad agencies could bid on the eBay auction for a client, but why bother? If Rocketboom is doing the creative work, that leaves little for an agency to do.
Today’s Rocketboom video-cast was all about the introduction of ads and the eBay auction, with Congdon doing a parody of crass advertising techniques. She said Rocketboom will not accept product placement, and will offer a subscription version of the blog for people who don’t want any ads. Rocketboom claims to get about 1 million views for its video blog in the course of five newscasts.
After the first nine hours on the auction block, the highest bid of 16 bids was $2,001, but the reserve was not met. (The reserve is the secret amount that the winning bidder must match in order to win; if the reserve isn’t met, no one wins.) The auction will go for 10 days total. I’ll be watching it closely to see what happens, and the ad agencies will be watching too. Even if it works as a one-time gimmick, the eBay ad buy might not hold up over time.
Do you think the independent ad auction will work for independent publishers online? Will advertising bother you on Rocketboom or other video blogs? Would you pay for Rocketboom, and how much?