EBay Auctions Radio Spots

NEW YORK EBay is taking on Google in the radio advertising marketplace through a partnership with Bid4Spots, which sells last-minute inventory through weekly online auctions for about 2,300 stations.

The auctions, for which eBay will receive a commission on each ad dollar, will take place on eBay Media Marketplace, which recently signed a deal to broker ads for cable network Oxygen.

Wasting no time, eBay will begin taking bids for radio ads starting today.

“This deal is intended to pump a lot more advertising dollars into our system,” said Dave Newmark, chairman and CEO of Bid4Spots. About 230 agencies and 2,000 direct advertisers have used Bid4Spots, usually to supplement buys and bulk up rating points, Newmark said.

The new partnership places eBay in a head-to-head battle with Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, and tangentially with Softwave Media Exchange, an online ad exchange that uses a traditional radio sales model and works with the top station groups to sell inventory on 1,700 radio stations in 288 markets.

“Ad agencies should study all three approaches carefully because they do different things,” Newmark said. “Our model is you get a lot and pay very little for it.”

Unlike Google, Bid4Spots and eBay don’t require any commitment from radio stations. Stations that sign up can either accept or decline any invitation to participate in any auction, which takes place in a matter of hours or minutes. Bid4Spots also lets buyers make a more detailed buy than Google, allowing advertisers to specify station, daypart and market. About 90 percent of the inventory sold through Bid4Spots is in drive times.

So far, radio stations have been cautious about handing over inventory to Google and other auction-like systems, fearing commoditization of their product. Trying to break through the radio market since last year, Google finally got some traction in April, signing a long-term deal with Clear Channel for about 5 percent of the inventory on 675 stations, giving Google access to larger-market stations. Other radio groups, such as Emmis Communications and Greater Media, are still experimenting with Google, but haven’t made broad commitments.

Newmark said he anticipates that all the stations in the U.S. will have signed up with Bid4Spots by the end of the year.

—with Mike Boyle, ‘Radio and Records’