Finding the new ad network

It’s been interesting to watch the efforts of Rocketboom as it tries to sell a new form of advertising – which it co-creates with the advertiser and which it has complete control over – in a new way. Basically, they’re selling slots to run after their broadcast every day for a week. They’ll conceive and produce the ads with input from the advertisers.

In other words, they’re letting advertisers into their world, on their terms. They’re betting that the strong association they already have with their audience, combined with the disaggregated distribution network podcasting gives them, and finally their personal “approval” of an advertiser, is worth a lot of money.

They could be right, but as many people have pointed out – most articulately Jeff Jarvis – the network to sell an ad in this way just doesn’t exist yet. Advertising might well oil the wheels of creativity, but for the emerging disaggregated social media, advertising is locked in a strong-box called “the normal way of doing things”, and it doesn’t want to come out yet, thank you very much.

So Rocketboom have been forced to sell their commercial inventory on eBay. An interesting idea, but also an indication of the paucity of other options. It’s currently selling for £15 grand to someone you’ve never heard of. MediaPost has an interesting round-up of the process so far:

BlogAds founder Henry Copeland, whose firm bid on the ad space but dropped out when the bidding topped $12,000, said the inventory’s value might be worth as much as $50,000. “Being the first advertiser on a cult show like this, with the ads actually being produced with Amanda, assuming that is the case, is worth a lot more than $15,000,” he said, referring to Rocketboom star Amanda Congdon. “An anal-retentive media buyer will get focused on the difficulty of verifying the viewership numbers, how many of the downloads are actually watched–and miss the novelty value and cult status of the show.”

Copeland said it was not surprising that the bidding had not yet reached the higher valuations, and that the top bidders are not big-name brands. “A decision to spend takes way too long to make it through the bowels of the decision-making process,” he said. “And a lot of buyers are going to have trouble with Rocketboom having creative control over the ads.”

Baron also said that Rocketboom used eBay because conventional ad sellers moved too slowly. “We tried to go with ad sellers, but it was taking too long and our deadlines were never met,” he said. “We kept hearing that it was taking too much time for the advertisers and everyone else to understand how it could work.”

It is kind of interesting that a major consumer electronics brand (Sony? Motorola?) hasn’t come in and just splashed 100 grand on the table. The chance to be the first advertiser doesn’t come along every week, after all.