Kevin Johnson, who runs Microsoft's Windows and Web businesses, is a master salesman. And making a sale, of course, requires a fine-tuned ability to bullshit on demand. Nowhere is that ability more on display than in Microsoft's announcement of a deal to buy AdECN, a supposedly neutral marketplace where advertisers and publishers can buy and sell online ads. AdECN is also a competitor to recent Yahoo acquisition Right Media and DoubleClick, which Google is trying to buy. Johnson claims Microsoft won't favor its own websites, or partners like Facebook or Digg. Of course, that's nonsense. How do I know that? AdECN told me so.
Here's a pitch an AdECN marketer emailed me a couple of months ago:
I wanted to point out something that is not being discussed much at all (yet) by the media during the current consolidation of the ad exchanges. With the purchase of Right Media and DoubleClick by two of the paid search and display ad giants in the industry, both of these firms will no longer be in a position to offer neutral, independent auction-based exchanges for the buying and selling of interactive ad inventory. Why?
Due to these firms "having a dog in the fight" by owning their own ad networks, it will be virtually impossible for them to not favor their own proprietary ad display outlets when ad inventory is being bought and sold. Worse, it would appear that it will be next to impossible for ad networks using these exchanges to be certain that their interests are being fairly and consistently represented. Also, because these exchanges allow advertisers, ad agencies and publishers to also trade directly on their systems, ad networks are threatened not just by Right Media-Yahoo! and GoogleClick's own ad network activities but by their own customers now being empowered to bypass them.
By buying AdECN, in other words, Microsoft destroyed its main selling point. A pity Kevin Johnson won't be able to tout AdECN's purported neutrality in signing up advertisers. As lines of bullshit go, it's not a bad one. But it's still bullshit.