In a move originally announced in November 2011, AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo have officially begun to offer each others unsold display advertising inventory in the US. The inventory is managed through real time bidding, with AOL and Yahoo inventory flowing through the Right Media AdExchange, while Microsoft is using it’s own exchange, which is built upon AppNexus. The inventory consists of the three company branded sites, as well as those of their network partners.
The aggregated marketplace now offers advertisers and agencies with a one-stop shop for accessing the inventory on three of the largest display networks. The ability to centralize the buying across the sites is certainly bound to be a positive consideration in the eyes of some advertisers, who are often challenged by the largely fragmented display advertising space that often relies on dealing with multiple sales reps and account managers, multiple tracking pixels, multiple insertion orders, and so on.
As all three of the properties will be using their sales teams to attract advertisers, however, it’s unclear to what level they will be competing to attract the interest of advertisers and agencies, and how the positioning will be represented to work with one vs. another.
The three brands will also retain their own networks for the more premium inventory, however, I can’t help but wonder what sort of effect this arrangement may have on long term individual operations. One potential negative might be a deterioration of perceived differences in audience quality/attributes that currently differential one from another. Additionally, will the ease of working with a centralized team promote a move away from working with all three individually as long as volume and performance metrics are met?
While some of the details remain to be discovered as adoption of the alliance increases, one thing seems clear: in a fragmented space with hundreds or thousands of networks to choose from in running display, a centralized marketplace from three of the largest networks offers reach and volume that smaller networks cannot support.
Whether this will prompt more alliances or mergers remains to be seen.