Software Transforms the Buying and Selling of Ads

  • by February 14, 2001
By Ken Leibeskind

Caroline Oberg graduated from Harvard Business School in 1998. Now she's trying to transform the advertising world.

Oberg founded Odac (Online Digital Advertising Connection), an Internet software firm in Boston following graduation. After spending the past two and a half years building the company it was acquired by Encoda Systems, the large Denver based advertising billing management company.

The companies announced the acquisition at a special presentation at a New York hotel on Tuesday. They also announced the introduction of the software product Oberg has been developing that she claims will transform the way advertising is bought and sold.

"It provides the opportunity to gather data and make more informed and effective advertising decisions," she says. The software system will have three components. The first two will manage work flow and orders, the third will be a data warehouse that aggregates information in one place where it can be analyzed.

The software was created because the current process of buying and selling advertising "is plagued with inefficiencies," Oberg says. "It is driven by phone, fax and manual entry."

Greg Smith, a spokesman for Zenith Media, a New York media buying firm agrees, saying the industry "has lagged behind others in automating the process. But now through the Net it's going to happen."

The challenge for the Odac product is whether it can work together with existing systems. When advertising is bought or sold, companies use back end legacy systems to record and transfer data. The new software won't replace these systems but work with them to automate transactions.

In the past, the industry has been unable to develop a solution like this because noone could determine how to integrate the systems. Many players have tried, including some who have engaged in "screen scraping," scraping data from other systems without their permission in an effort to integrate them.

Oberg questions both the legality of screen scraping and its utility in the face of reluctant integration partners.

"We made it clear we won't screen scrape," she says, indicating that she doesn't need to, because of her relationship with Encoda, which runs many of the systems. In addition, she is trying to establish a relationship with Donovan Data Systems, an Encoda competitor that is the dominant player on the agency side. No announcement has been made yet, but an agreement with Donovan would enable Odac to integrate more of the back end systems.

Tony O'Brien, executive vice president of Live Wire, Encoda's parent, says the acquisition of Odac enables Encoda to "enhance our core billing system with a quantum leap in functionality. It's set up to solve the main problems of work flow and data transfer so customers can manage the delivery of inventory and consolidate billing."

Besides managing the process of buying and selling advertising, the Odac system will enable networks and advertisers to deliver the

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