Why the internet does not need Madison Avenue

Joe Mandese

If anyone doubts that the internet is back with a vengeance, they have not been listening to Sir Martin Sorrell. As head of WPP Group, the world's biggest buyer of media, he has made it abundantly clear that the internet is reshaping the habits of media consumers, and how marketers and agencies use media to reach them. OK, so readers of this magazine already know that. No surprise there. What is surprising is what Sir Martin has started saying about how the internet is starting to transform the business of making advertising and buying media.

Recently, WPP took a strategic stake in Spot Runner, a small internet-based company that allows advertisers to create ads and to plan and buy them in local media. Do not confuse Spot Runner with the kind of online-based media-buying exchanges that boomed and crashed during the late 1990s, and that are starting to pop up once again. Those exchanges are simply trying to be market intermediaries for the buying and selling of media. That model may or may not succeed, depending on the willingness of big advertisers and big media to do business that way. And the track record has not been good.