Point of view: Media's new values

Joe Mandese

When I started covering the advertising marketplace 30 years ago, I was surprised to learn that Madison Avenue did not operate anything like Wall Street. Instead of the financial markets' open exchanges, where supply and demand determined the value of what was bought and sold, the trading of advertising relied upon private markets with their own rules that were often determined not by underlying value, but by the relationships between buyers and sellers.

This has been most evident in the highest-profile media marketplace, the US network TV upfront buying season, but I have observed it to be true of most other big advertising markets, including the early digital advertising marketplace. There are a lot of good business reasons for these legacies; the main ones, I have come to believe, are cultural – people have just been used to doing business that way, the business they did generally worked well for both sides, and there was no better alternative available to do things differently. Until recently, that is.