New Life for Old Ads
By Geoffrey James

(Business 2.0) – Go to any advertising agency and you'll find filing cabinets stuffed with hidden treasure--high-quality commercials produced for clients that no longer want them. Visit many mom-and-pop businesses, meanwhile, and you'll find aspiring advertisers who can't afford big-budget ad shoots. Denver-based Thought Equity is exploiting this mismatch by brokering the sale of new and "pre-aired" ads to local advertisers.

Promotion-starved small companies can select from Thought Equity's online library of ready-to-recycle commercials, collected from more than 300 ad agencies. Thought Equity handles rights and royalties and ensures that an ad is resold only once within a region. Advertisers get slick commercials on the cheap, while agencies earn extra cash if their ads are reused.

Earlier this year, for example, Brian Singleton, marketing manager for Budget Rent A Car in Las Vegas, wanted to promote the local franchise's Hummer rentals. Enter Thought Equity, where Singleton found a 2003 commercial that shows a man squeezing his face to simulate high-speed acceleration. The ad was originally developed for a BMW customizer in Atlanta, but Singleton purchased it for $1,200 and added a new Budget tagline. He loved the results.

Thought Equity's prospects seem to be accelerating as well. The company expects revenue from ad recycling to triple by 2005. -- GEOFFREY JAMES