There is some irony in the current state of the supply chain for TV advertising. It got off to a flying start, when stations pioneered the file-based playout of spots in the early ’90s, making use of the new video servers of the time. With a capacity of a few hours, they were ideal for the playout of commercials, and they cut down on wear and tear of tape in the cart machines that had been until then.
Although playout became heavily automated, the rest of the supply chain lags behind other parts of the industry. Some areas, such as ad distribution, make great use of file delivery. But further back up the chain, little has changed. Tapes are dubbed, checked and dispatched. Copies are made for different clients, in different aspects ratios and in SD and HD.
Some may adhere to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but the world has changed. Spots are being seen not just on linear TV, but on all manner of video platforms, from mobile to online. Because of this, many more versions of an ad must be created from what is usually an HD master. The media industry can no longer afford workflow of the past, and this applies to advertising as much as program creation.
Organizations representing the broadcasting, marketing and market research industries met recently in New York at the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) 2011 TV and Everything Video Forum. During the forum, Bob Liodice, President and CEO of ANA, announced his association’s intention to embrace Ad-ID as the industry standard for coding digital assets and implementing file-based workflow across the entire marketing supply chain.
The endorsement of the Ad-ID digital advertising asset coding system, which ANA and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) created and manage, will spur the marketing ecosystem to eliminate time-consuming human intervention and adopt new automated processes that support all measurement systems. Ad-ID also helps to streamline steps from production through distribution and playout.
Ad-ID upgrades ISCI, replaces a host of in-house numbering systems and allows spots to be uniquely indentified, avoiding costly mistakes at time of air.
Further down the chain, Nielsen will use Ad-ID, in combination with its established watermarking technology, to power products including commercial ratings, competitive analysis and commercial verification at the national, syndication and local levels, as well as across media platforms.
Ad-ID enables metadata to be associated with a spot, including digital slates and AFD. Today, it is not uncommon for the same ad to be aired on different networks with a different active format. Errors can easily arise when such information is manually rekeyed during the distribution and transmission processes.
As operators of file-based systems converge on standards like MXF for the distribution of commercials, the opportunity presents to develop highly constrained uses for MXF that fit the need of advertising distribution. With the Ad-ID metadata wrapped with video and audio essence, much more of the advertising delivery chain can be automated, lowering costs and avoiding mistakes.
Ad-ID is a unique numbering system for the advertising community that allows production and technical metadata to be linked to a spot. The information resides in a central server that can be addressed via a Web services API for agencies, post houses, distribution companies and broadcasters to share that information without rekeying and without the need to view slates embedded as stills in the video files.
As the management of spots across multiple platforms grows, similar issues related to AFD will only become more common. The days of delivering SD video on Betacam, a single format, are over. The use of unique IDs and metadata are becoming essential to check that the right spot is aired in the correct format.