Virtual rep houses point media buyers online

More advertisers will be buying media online in the near future, if two fast-growing virtual rep houses have anything to say about it....

More advertisers will be buying media online in the near future, if two fast-growing virtual rep houses have anything to say about it.

Both of Toronto and of San Francisco, Calif. offer online listings of advertising space in a variety of media. Media planners and buyers can check out the avails, submit their plans in order to receive tailored proposals based on their strategies, and make purchases – all electronically., which launched quietly at the end of March, lists nearly a half-million dollars worth of properties in out-of-home, print, broadcast and online media. Suppliers include Telemedia Radio Network, the National Trivia Network and YTV’s Video & Arcade Top Ten. was established in 1997 under the name The company, which specializes primarily in out-of-home and online media, is now moving north of the border, although it has yet to introduce many Canadian listings.

Scott Neslund, managing director of Toronto-based Starcom Worldwide, says that services like these could ultimately play a significant role in the media buying landscape.

In the short-term, he predicts, media suppliers will use virtual rep houses mainly for surplus inventory, specials and one-time-only offerings. "But eventually, they’re going to want to test it on a broader scale."

Any system that allows for real-time electronic transactions is bound to create advantages for both buyers and sellers, says Neslund, who adds that the industry appears to be moving toward a blend of high-tech and traditional methods of doing business.

Lorraine Hughes, media director with Toronto-based TBWA Chiat/Day, agrees.

As electronic buying and selling evolves, she says, it should eliminate much of the paperwork that now bogs down buyers, speeding up the transaction process and giving advertisers a better shot at the properties they want.

Some media sales reps worry that electronic transactions may diminish their role, but Hughes doesn’t see that as a likelihood. There will still be many situations in which the negotiating skills of reps will be called upon, she says.

If anything, improved communications systems will render sales reps more effective, Hughes says. "The reps can spend more time being ambassadors for their stations and publications," she explains.

Mike Wixson, CEO of, says the company is working to set up a French-language version of the site, and to add Quebec media properties to its listings. The virtual rep house has also begun making forays into the U.S. market.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group