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Ad group gives up on EBay program

April 06, 2007|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

A group of national cable television networks on Thursday abruptly pulled out of an experimental program that sought to use EBay Inc.'s auction expertise and technology to buy and sell TV time.

Several big ad agencies and major advertisers including Home Depot Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Intel Corp. hired EBay last summer to create an "online media marketplace" for television ads.

The companies had hoped to introduce an efficient, and perhaps lower-cost, tool for selling commercial time.

But the Cable Television Advertising Bureau, which represents most of the large national ad-supported cable channels, said Thursday that EBay's test product wasn't ready for prime time.

The industry group said the proposed system failed to incorporate the nuances involved in deciding which programs and networks to pair with advertisers' products and messages.

The dispute highlights the increasing tensions between old and new media. The Internet's appeal among advertisers threatens traditional media outlets. They've struggled to capitalize on the efficiencies and automation of the Internet to bolster their existing businesses.

But the cable group said EBay was the one falling short.

"We were underwhelmed by what we saw on the system and underwhelmed by EBay's knowledge of our business," said Sean Cunningham, chief executive of the Cable Television Advertising Bureau. "It wasn't very good."

For example, Cunningham said, the system didn't recognize the term "soccer mom," which is industry shorthand for a woman age 25 to 54 who has children at home and, more than likely, makes most of the family's buying decisions.

EBay said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the cable group's action. Spokesman Brad Williams said the San Jose-based company was blindsided when the cable group went public with its complaints rather than bringing them to EBay.

"We were negotiating with them in good faith and today we read a press release that says our product is no good," Williams said, adding that the group's decision would not kill the project.

meg.james@latimes.com

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