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Coming Soon To The Endangered Species List: Online Ad Sales Teams?

The self-serve ads option has been all the rage for search ads the last few years. Increasingly, now, do-it-yourself is becoming similarly popular for the display ad space. Over the past several months, a number of companies have come up with DIY offerings: Fox Interactive Media (NYSE: NWS) began testing a self-serve option for its local TV websites and on MySpace, as Facebook’s DIY program has been drawing interest from small advertisers as well. Meanwhile, a slew of relatively new vendors like AdBrite, AdReady and AdItAll have all been pushing self-serve display-buying options as well. On the web publisher side, AOL (NYSE: TWX) just released PubAccess, a self-serve tool aimed at small publishers as a way to manage their display ads. Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which was credited with helping spur the rise of search ads with its self-serve system, has launched a similar service. Lots more after the jump

Less hassles at low prices: The WSJ points out that the emergence of DIY ad services for display have the potential bring in greater numbers of small advertisers who can’t afford display ads through the current route. Self-service also appeals to those marketers who can’t afford demands like Yahoo’s (NSDQ: YHOO) usual service, which requires advertisers to commit thousands of dollars per month as a price of admission to place display ads across its portal. Contrast that with the few cents its costs to reach a thousand users with Facebook’s and MySpace’s DIY systems. Aside from the cost, the typical DIY method of buying display ads is a tortuous, time-consuming one: as the WSJ explains, the exercise generally entails choosing among 15 standard sizes and several basic formats; then advertisers have to pay someone to design the ad; once that’s done, they have to pick which network to buy space from, test the ads and ultimately track them. The other option involves paying an agency still more thousands to handle the job for them, something smaller marketers can’t do.

Going the way of travel agents?: Display ads are expected to be 40 percent of the $20 billion online ad market over the next few years. That growth is dependent on the process becoming more simple and less expensive. As the self-serve option takes hold, WSJ compares the likely shakeup in the online ad industry to that of travel agents, a business that has been marginalized as consumers have tended to plan their own trips online as well. So although ad sales teams function might be as essential as a result of all this increased automation, the current system isn’t like to hold either, given that sites are already having trouble hiking their prices and stagnation is a possibility. The prospect of self-serve options bringing a wider class of advertisers into the system and making the practice less costly and arduous is, in the end, considered crucial to the growth of the online ad industry.