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Defining an Advertising Supply Chain - Harold Geller

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Players in the media business (such as broadcasters, program producers/distributors, ad agencies and commercial producers) don't believe that technologists can integrate all of their systems; in addition, many technologists don't believe that these players know, or care enough. Both are mistaken, of course. This leads to a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation as it applies to a marketing and communications supply chain, and the efficiencies they promise. A classic example of this is the slow adoption of new means of content identification, Ad-ID, with the improved flows that it facilitates.

Underlying these beliefs exist constant discreet references to a supply chain; even more so, there are references to its need for a facelift. However, there is a lack of discussion about the bare bones of the current structure as it relates to its ability to function independently from its individual elements. This begs the question: in this case, does the whole equal the sum of its parts? The answer to this question is necessary in order to facilitate the basic changes to an antiquated, albeit traditional, supply chain.

The supply chain must begin somewhere. It is imperative to understand that partners in a supply chain have defined responsibilities in the process of taking raw materials through the stages of completion. This results in a consumable finished product. In our industry a finished product is an Ad, but raw materials can be the footage that is shot during the production process, other graphic elements, or even closed captioning. At each stage of completion a partner not only ends up with the tangible product, but a progressively more complete description of the product. Each partner contributes their experience in the development of the product, and makes the definition more robust.

Now I'd like to get into the details of what it means to be each partner within a supply chain. To rebuild a Chevy, you must know how to disassemble it; the same applies for our purposes.

The industry today is focused on making sure that the advertiser gets what they want, when they want it and for the best price possible. For more than 20 years the marketing communications business has lived in a world where bottom-up solutions like master data management, and asset identification and description, have taken a back seat to top down metrics such as ROI, audience measurement and comparative analytics. I suggest that we begin to look at these both as equally valuable, and necessary. Realistically we are looking at a bottom-up foundation versus top-down evaluations, measurement and analytics which need to coexist symbiotically.

At the head of Advertising Supply Chain is the Advertiser; their contribution is the marketing and consumer insights that are necessary to begin a creative development process, not to mention they fund it entirely. However, they also provide the base-level information that will be used throughout the supply chain. This bottom-up information includes the standardized naming of both their corporate and brand entities, and campaign level information, such as "the Fall Launch Campaign".

Their processes are then followed by the Advertising Agencies, which begin the creative development and media planning development. At this juncture the raw materials of the advertiser's campaign begin to take shape. Now there are conceptual ideas, and the initial stages of how the consumer will be exposed to the message. Perhaps they will be exposed via visual media like TV, or on radio, or in a magazine, or, more-likely-than-not, the internet.

At this stage, we begin to develop what these messages will be called, and what kind of creative units will be developed. For example there might be 3 commercials planned, two 15 second spots, and a 30, and they may be called "The Doritos chip man", "The Doritos chip man returns", and the "Doritos chip man attacks".

Are you beginning to see that the layers of abstraction describing this product are sort of like a Russian nested doll? The smaller doll is inside, enclosed by the larger doll, which then is enclosed in a larger doll, and so on.

As these commercials find their way through the next stages, pre-production, production, and postRussian+Stacking+Dolls production, the descriptions and elements that have become more progressively robust are supposed to be following the product around. If your business systems were doing the work in the background, each partner would be focused on what they do best.

Next along the supply chain, plans are made for the placement. The media outlets use business systems that interact with both the product and descriptions. And when I talk about media outlets, I mean Broadcasters, cable outlets, web sites, Video on Demand, mobile providers and the additional platforms du jour; in addition to endless sub platforms to display media.

Here is a bombshell: marketers are looking for innovation! You can point to added value, either through reduced timelines, or reduced costs. Once that is achieved then we have demonstrated the value of being part of a supply chain, and you've earned your spot as a valued partner.

The marketing and communications supply chain has become more complex, and is all about providing relevant and engaging content to the consumer where and when they want it, in other words, we are talking about the same content being viewed on multiple screens, without the advertising message being intrusive. Defining, sharing, and refining best practices in supply chain excellence that use both bottom up, and top down approaches, allow for better and timelier data collection, aggregation, and reporting. Ultimately, the shift to thinking as a supply chain requires the consideration of decisions, not just for the benefit of a particular organization, as opposed to an extended enterprise.

Harold S Geller is Senior Vice President, Cross Industry Workflow, American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and Chief Growth Officer, Ad-ID LLC - the industry standard for identifying Advertising assets across all media platforms - a UPC code for ads, which is a joint venture of the 4A’s and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Harold can be reached at