4A's Unveil Comprehensive EDI Effort

The American Association of Advertising Agencies pulled the curtain up on its electronic data transfer hub--eBiz for Media--Wednesday, which will help conclude a two-decade crusade to find a service that allows the media industry's buy side and sell side to conduct "eBusiness transactions."

The registry, at www.eBizformedia.com, is comprised of two parts: the Advertising Industry Registry and the XML Schema Repository. XML is the software transaction standard developed by the 4A's and MediaPort, a defunct venture sponsored by Interpublic, Omnicom, and WPP, and headed by media veteran Mike Lotito, who now runs his own media audit service, IQMedia.

The registry will allow media buyers and sellers to locate other compatible trading partners, and then use the information in the registry to initiate pure "E2E" or "Machine-to-Machine" communication via Web services, said Greg Smith, the chief information officer of McCann WorldGroup. Smith is the head of the 4A's standards committee on electronic data interchange (EDI).



The system is intended to provide a platform for transactions throughout the media life cycle, from avail to invoice. While other organizations such as the Television Advertising Bureau (TVB), Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, and National Cable Communications have worked on efforts to move the transaction process from manual to electronic over the years, eBiz for Media is designed to encompass all those other systems.

"In broadcast local TV, for years, and the rep community have had [the TVB-developed] DARE system and that has worked very well," Smith said. "The TVB actually has two threads running: one is continuing to support DARE, which is a Donovan [software] system used to communicate to the reps, or open standards, which covers about two-thirds of the agencies that are not on the DARE systems."

At a conference a few years ago when Smith was talking about moving forward on EDI, he recalled being interrupted by a woman who said: "I've been hearing about EDI for 14 years, and nothing's ever happened." The unveiling of eBiz for Media is intended to prove that something has happened.

"We've overcome technology barriers and political barriers, and we're at a point where all parties have to do this in order to survive in many cases," Smith said. "Media companies need to push their respective software providers or their internal IT groups, and this will come to fruition--and in a short amount of time we will have electronic data flow. We've made much more progress in the last year than anyone could have dreamed."

At the 4A's Media Conference in New Orleans next month, Smith said he will have more specific examples as to how the standards are being used and what sort of impact they're having on business.

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