The plan for AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft to join forces in the online ad market sparked a fresh media buzz, but salespeople at the companies should expect little in the way of change when it comes to taking on the Google juggernaut.
As the http:/allthingsd.com/20110914/all-for-one-yahoo-aol-microsoft-band-together-for-ad-plan/">three rivals get ready to team up against Google and smaller online ad networks to regain market share, any sense of camaraderie among their sales forces seems unlikely when it comes to the dirty work of selling "Class 2" display ad space.
"I just don't see the long-term potential of a combined force," said Clayton Moran, a senior analyst for the Benchmark Company's Internet, Media & Communications team. "Selling your competitor's inventory is either going to create conflicting incentives or a situation where selling your own inventory clearly becomes more lucrative, so that's what you stick to."
AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft share a deep-rooted rivalry against Google. They also have a lot of client overlap when it comes to the companies they sell display ad space to. That makes the likelihood of any synergy hard to imagine without some fancy new technology to make ad selling more targeted, said David Hallerman, principal analyst for online advertising at eMarketer.
"Most of the inventory will likely be sold through some shared generic platform with minimal hands-on involvement," Hallerman said. "If that platform were to actually prove viable and profitable, it could potentially take work away from all three sales forces. But I don't see it happening."
Yahoo has the largest online sales force of the three, with Microsoft second and AOL third, according to Benchmark estimates. All three companies confirmed the announcement of the ad space deal, but declined to share specifics about their sales forces or the details of the plan. Industry experts are watching for changes in sales personnel as the arrangement unfolds.
"A lot of Yahoo employees have already gone over to Microsoft," said Clayton. "If Yahoo were to give up control of their ad display business as well, they wouldn't have much left."
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