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Cable’s E-Solution To Ad Buys Unveiled

A new collaboration between A&E Television Networks (AETN) and media-buying agency Universal McCann could set the stage for big improvements in the way cable networks and agencies do business.

According to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB), a new "e-business" initiative for managing cable-network advertising activity is ready for primetime. CAB has led the drive to bridge communication between agencies and cable networks through an electronic system.

Using a platform developed by Donovan Data Systems, the cable network and Universal McCann were able to communicate live changes to a media buy. The effort marks the first real-world result of a behind-the-scenes effort to ease the job of keeping up with advertising order changes.

"We’ve been working for years to be able to send changes electronically. And this is the first time that it has been done," says Danielle DeLauro, VP of sales and marketing for the CAB.

The e-business initiative follows last week’s announcement that CAB won’t participate in further trials of a cable advertising "exchange system" developed by Internet-commerce titan eBay. In part, it’s thought that cable networks didn’t want to relinquish some control of the ad-selling process.

In February, the Television Bureau of Advertising, which represents broadcasters, said it is building ePort, a similar Web-based aid to ad selling. TVB plans to introduce it in the fourth quarter.

Many changes to cable-network advertising schedules, rates and buys are still made the old-fashioned way: by fax or e-mail. That produces lots of duplicated efforts—and frequent paperwork discrepancies—because people on both the network and the ad-agency sides are entering the same data. "There’s double-entry, so it adds more time that could be spent doing other things," says DeLauro. Discrepancies and time-sapping corrections, she says, should be virtually eliminated as agencies and cable networks make changes electronically.

The new system integrates agencies and cable networks through a secure electronic pipeline that makes use of an enhanced version of Donovan’s widely deployed Steward software. According to DeLauro, CAB and cable networks also are working with the American Association of Advertising Agencies to make the same type of electronic integration possible universally, over other agency-software platforms. A broad group of national cable networks are joining AETN in deploying the new e-business platform, along with major media-buying groups, including MPG, MindShare, Initiative, Maxus, Carat and Mediaedge:cia.