The intent of SellerCrowd.com is to give digital ad sales people a place to quietly trade information about ad buyers so they can more easily find clients’ contact information — and stop wasting clients’ time with dead-in-the-water sales pitches.
But as everyone on the site is anonymous, and as clients are banned, it also functions as a place where sales people can surreptitiously trade gossip that media buyers — the people who actually spend advertising money — cannot see.
SellerCrowd has achieved this through an ingenious use of Linkedin’s application programming interface (the sign-in thingy, basically): Everyone on the site must register using their Linkedin profile. Founder Clayton Gran then removes anyone who is a media buyer, or who registers with a fake Linkedin profile, leaving the site free for sellers only. Users are given an anonymous profile that prevents anyone else finding out who they are, but their Linkedin profile proves to the site’s administrators that there is a real person behind the anonymous identity.
The sellers (and Gran) police themselves on the site. Openly dishing the dirt on media buyers is frowned upon. Gran removes people who abuse the privilege of anonymity.
However, one person’s gossip is another person’s vital market information, and sellers are indeed occasionally trading tittle-tattle about buyers on SellerCrowd.com. Here’s an example [with names removed]:
Titans70: How do you get into [Company, Exec 1 and Exec 2] are impossible to hammer down?
Proche15: they’ll take a mani/pedi
Grenache87: Do you have [Exec 1]’s email/phone?
Proche15: [Gives out the name, phone and email information for an ad exec whose clients include NBC, Sony and the NFL].
Titans70: Thanks. I have her info. She just is hard to get a hold of even when I send gifts. Maybe I’ll work the mani / pedi angle.
It could all be innocuous, except that many companies have strict ethics policies forbidding their procurement executives from accepting gifts or services such as manicures. While the above conversation doesn’t say that the executives accepted these gifts, it does indicate that some people in the ad sales business like to do business the old-fashioned way: by showering potential clients with freebies.
Media buyers at ad agencies have noticed. “We had a huge swathe of people from Digitas last week,” Gran said, referring to the digital ad media-buying firm. Gran prevented them all from joining the site. “Then we had a huge swath of people from OMD,” another media-buying agency. Gran kicked them all off the site, too.
“We keep them out. They’re intensely curious about what’s being said on the site.” Buyers are most unhappy about details of requests-for-proposals — new business pitches, basically — being traded on the site.
Gran is hoping to eventually roll the site out to all kinds of different sales people, in any industry where there is an increasing number of sellers but a static or dwindling number of buying clients.
Note the use of Linkedin to verify users’ indentity: Gran said he chose the Linkedin API because it’s hard to build a fake identity on the site — no one will link to you. Also, it’s harder to fake your resume — your friends all know whether you really graduated from Harvard Business School or not. Could it be that Linkedin may emerge as the standard internet identity protocol? Hmm.
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