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Major U.S. Advertisers Aim To Drive Down Advertising Prices

Nine prominent advertisers have joined forces to create and test an online marketplace for buying advertising time. It�s a move that could revolutionize the way billions-of-dollars of ad revenue is spent, and could shift the bargaining power to advertisers.

Toyota Motor, Wal-Mart Stores, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Home Depot, among others have put up a combined $50 million. They have enlisted eBay to build an auction site, called e-Media Exchange, that would sell national ad time on a yet-to-be determined cable network in a test tentatively set for January 2007.

Their goal? To make the ad-sales market transparent. The new system would allow advertisers to post media plans on the auction site, and invite bids from networks and media outlets.

The e-Media proposal evolved from former Chrysler marketing chief Julie Roehm, who made a speech at a media-industry conference in 2004. Roehm said an automated trading system akin to the Nasdaq Stock Market could replace the upfront market rituals, in which ad bargaining takes place in May for the upcoming fall TV season.