Nate Elliott[Posted by Nate Elliott]

Ad Age ran a fascinating piece this week about how CPG giant Reckitt Benckiser shifted $20 million of their TV budget to pre-roll ads, and then relentlessly hammered publishers on price. According to Ad Age, Reckitt bought some pre-rolls for as little as $1 per thousand.

Granted, the economy is clearly taking its toll on in-stream ad prices. And big budgets always earn marketers volume discounts. But when you realize that even in this market most high-quality pre-roll inventory costs upwards of $30 per thousand, the prices Reckitt paid look incredibly low.

And that’s stirred up some debate about whether Reckitt really get good value from those buys. Clearly, they weren’t aiming for top-notch, name-brand sites: the buy was focused on networks rather than individual sites, and at those prices Reckitt likely to wound up with remnant inventory. As Freewheel CEO Doug Knopper said, “Reckitt is about premium brands; [this buy] won’t showcase those brands — it will schlock them up.”

Marketers can always find low-cost inventory if they want to. Online, that means untargeted, non-frequency-capped remnant inventory and blind network buys; on TV, that means 3am times lots on obscure cable channels. The question isn’t whether you can find this inventory, it’s whether this inventory offers any real value — especially to a brand marketer.

What do you think? Did Reckitt help or hurt their brands by advertising on non-premium pre-roll inventory? If you could find remnant pre-roll space for $1 (or $3 or $5) per thousand, would you buy it? Let us know in the comments below.