You’ve held the hot ad material in your hand, walked to the end of the hall while sealing the gummy fold of the overnight package. Perhaps there’s a sense of relief when you drop the package into that dark box. Perhaps that sense of relief is coupled with anxiety: It will get there on time, right?
As many ad traffickers are learning, it is now possible to send your file through an online digital ad delivery system, which automatically confirms that it has received and sent forth your material—all of this within a matter of minutes. Print jobs can be sent via PDF files, radio spots can be transferred with higher than MP3 quality, television spots can be sent within minutes of their final edit. Media traffickers receiving the ad can then access it within minutes of the electronic transaction, and by doing so, trigger a confirmation to the agency from whence it came. “You couldn’t walk it to me any faster,” says KGO San Francisco’s Assistant Manager Elaine Banaga.
The result? More time to spend on the creative end, fewer printing hassles, no tape glitches, less fuss with faxes, reduced need for confirmation phone calls, and the end of shipper-induced anxiety. Digital ad delivery systems are available to benefit agencies and media working with print material, radio, and television broadcasts. Not only do these systems save time, but they can save agencies plenty of money.
For those working with print media, PDF files are often used to transfer the images and data. Once commissioned, a digital ad delivery service such as adDirect.com sets up an interface through the agency’s advertisement ordering system. This way, every ad scheduled for publication can be tracked from any computer that has Internet access. Production status becomes available online to production management and traffickers. Then, the ad delivery system checks to see if the ad contains the minimum required information. This information includes the publication name, first publication date, width, and depth. The ad is then uploaded into the system, and the media is notified by e-mail or by fax. Newspapers, for example, can then go to the data center on the website to see if there are ads awaiting them. Next, the publication instructions are given, and finally a confirmation is sent to the advertisers—no scanning, no second generation copies.
John Rowland, president of adDirect.com, feels confident that this technology will be too enticing to resist. “We provide a great value for the media planners,” he says, “because we can execute their print publishing campaigns at a much lower cost, much more efficiently.” Sending an ad and receiving a confirmation from the publisher costs about $8 per transmission. High volume users enjoy a discount, and there is no extra charge for last-minute delivery. AdDirect.com currently serves over 1,600 daily newspapers, as well as advertisers like Home Depot, Lord and Taylor, and J. Walter Thompson.
Artsend.com also provides a digital delivery service that provides its clients the ability to link financials with substance. They service over 7,000 newspapers with their on-site, server-based browser. Carl Bryant, Executive VP at parent firm Media Passage sees digital ad delivery as the way of the future. “This is a classic example of technology demolishing a previous workload and the way things used to be done,” he says. Time can now be used in more creative ways with greater efficiency and less stress. Bryant ensures that a print ad can now be “delivered within the hour from when it was received.”
A print advertisement can now be delivered within the hour it was released by the agency.
It seems like a pretty good deal for agencies, but how is the print media responding? Lee Dawson, Digital Department Supervisor for the newspaper group that includes the Oakland Tribune, agrees that the technology is cutting edge. He asserts that the PDF (Portable Document Format) high resolution quality “definitely” suits their standards. If the ad is sent properly through the system without any errors, the reception process can take “two minutes—it’s lovely when that happens,” he muses. However, Dawson would like to see more pre-flight preparation done to help avoid errors in the PDF files. Nonetheless, admits Dawson, attending to errors in digital files reduces labor significantly. “It could take hours to strip a manual ad, whereas digital ad manipulation takes twenty minutes.”
A weekly magazine such as Newsweek, on the other hand, may not find the PDF quality sufficient for their high standards. Angelo Rivello, Senior VP of Manufacturing and Distribution, believes that PDF compression technology is “not prolific [enough] at the moment” to justify veering away from hard copy print. The fact that digital delivery is not an across-the-board standard keeps it from reaching its full potential. Until a single format is agreed upon, digital delivery will not be entirely embraced. But, in light of all of the benefits of a digital future, Rivello says, “We’re ready; no one wants it more than weekly magazines.” As for radio, nowadays broadcast quality spots can easily be sent through application systems like Spottaxi.com, whose George Lange emphasizes that this is a service whose time has come. “Any new technological service follows a curve of adoption,” he says. “It can be more difficult in the beginning, but once agencies realize how simple it is, and it really is simple,” they will be reaping the rewards of a finely honed digital system. Not only can the spots can be sent immediately from agency to station using the technology, but individuals within the agency can listen to the files from any computer with an online connection. This makes pre-approval as easy as a click of the mouse. Of course, this type of service is simplifying life for traffickers, and the consequent reduction in traffic-related errors saves agencies “tens of thousands of dollars every year.”
For 2-hour guaranteed delivery, one to four spots can be sent for $10 per destination. Five to ten spots can be sent at a rate of $10-$15 per destination. Thumbnail Audio Delivery, which allows an unlimited quantity of next-to-MP3-quality spots to be sent via e-mail costs $2.50 per destination. Pre-approval among agency members and advertisers has never been so easy.
Katie Fabbro-Clements, Assistant Producer at the McCann Erickson agency in Seattle, couldn’t be more pleased with the digital ad delivery movement. “I am really hoping that more and more people use [these services]; they are so easy that it’s not hard to make the transition.” In her experience, the quality of the digitally delivered spots is better than quarter-inch tape reels. “Before, you had to wait for overnight,” she says, “but now, you can produce things in the morning and get them there in the afternoon.” All of this without depending upon the postal service. “Last winter we had to worry about blizzards,” she says.
Television, too, has been reaping the rewards of digital delivery systems. “Get with it!” encourages 25-year agency veteran Adrienne Tomas, Partner and Director of Broadcast Traffic at JWT. “Why risk having a tape lost in a snowstorm?” she asks. “You don’t have to worry about the weather. Unless a satellite is knocked out of orbit.” But, she observes, “some people don’t like change. They find it scary.” Nonetheless, Tomas stresses that sending spots digitally is a practical thing to do, even if it is a new force. “On our end, we can finish a commercial much later than we used to,” she says. “I have never heard a complaint.... There is no such thing as bad digital quality. No lost tapes, you get things quicker, and the creative people can have more time.” DGsystems and Vivex are two oft-used services that are making life easier for agency and station people alike. Typical charges for DGsystems to send one spot to one station are in the $20 range, though rates are subject to high volume discounts.
Bob Howard, V.P. of Sales and Marketing at DGsystems encourages stations to step into the digital age. "Be not afraid!" he crows, "It works!" In fact DGsystems, provider of digital ad services to over 750 television stations, has emerged with a new technology called Onedigitalpath. This alliance takes a spot through its life cycle, from editing to airing to archiving—electronically. It was used recently to transfer raw Olympic footage from Australia to Chicago where a commercial was created, approved and sent back in a matter of hours. That’s less than one work day to you and me.
Clearly, digital ad delivery services can cut costs, boost efficiency, and in many cases, heighten the quality of content for their clients. Maybe it’s going to take one more restless night dreaming of broken-down brown trucks and bottomless mailboxes until you too decide to tap into the digital ad delivery revolution.