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Media monitoring offers vigilant eye

Worldtrax Media believes it has a product advertisers and Hollywood syndication studios cannot live without.

It designed an Internet-based media-monitoring service that watches over television channels to ensure that commercials, promo spots and programs run when and where they are scheduled.

If a Warner Bros. Domestic Television advertisement for an episode of The Jamie Foxx Show
doesn't air in New York or a 30-second spot for Budweiser airs during the middle of the night instead of its correct prime time slot, the computer-based Worldtrax Media Trace service will know.

"We allow anybody in the media industry, whether you are an advertising agency, a broadcaster or a studio, whoever you are, to identify where any material airs anytime in the world overnight, down to the second," says Worldtrax founder and CEO Craig Kelley. "We basically put a fingerprint into the actual active portion of a promo or show and track where it airs and doesn't air."

An Internet-based service, Media Trace encodes all formats of video with a digital fingerprint and, with electronic monitoring devices that are located in all major markets, watches over every second of programming. Kelley helped develop the Media Trace technology while working with Lucent Technologies and licensed the service for worldwide distribution from Lucent.

In terms of notifying stations and cable systems of errors or breaches of contract, Dick Gold, Worldtrax President of North American Sales, says that's up to the clients.

"We are not in the policing business," says Gold. "What we give, say, Warner Bros. every day are two reports, the total number of promos played, then a discrepancy report that tells them where the wrong promos played or didn't play at all. They follow up with the individual station, not us."

Worldtrax Media Trace isn't the first monitoring service of its kind to enter the U.S. marketplace. Nielsen Media Research and Competitive Media Reporting have already established their own individual services. But Kelley says Media Trace is the only automated monitoring system of its kind.

"There is and there isn't competition out there for us," says Kelley. "We're well aware of those companies, but the unique capabilities that we have built into our services make us stand out. We can work seamlessly from analog to digital unlike our competitors, so it doesn't matter what type of media you give us."

A year ago, Worldtrax's Media Trace service began operating in Japan and in several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Brazil. Clients include McCann Erickson, General Motors and Nestlé and several cable networks operating internationally.

Media Trace has entered the U.S., setting up test markets in Los Angeles, New York and in Worldtrax' home market of Portland, Ore. By this summer, Kelley says the system will be up and running in the top 75 U.S. markets and by year's end the top 150.

"We are basically going to be monitoring every terrestrial broadcast signal in every market," says Kelley, who formerly worked for Mattel Toys developing interactive components for video games. "In every major market we'll be monitoring every advertiser-supported cable channel. So in large markets like Los Angeles and New York, we will be monitoring something like 55 to 70 channels."

While only in three U.S. markets, Worldtrax has been able to sign up several major syndication studios that want to track their programs, including Warner Bros. and Tribune Entertainment. Worldtrax is currently handling seven Warner Bros. shows in syndication, including ER, Friends, The People's Court
and Moral Court. For Tribune, the service was used last year on several weekend action series.

"It really makes sense for the syndication community," says Kelley. "We will certainly verify everything that runs, but with some of our clients we are doing real-time matching against play logs and buy-information."