AAAA to Take Up MediaPort Effort

The American Association of Advertising Agencies will pick up the process of hammering out XML-based standards for ad buying, selling and trafficking from now-defunct startup MediaPort.

New York-based MediaPort, which shut its doors earlier this year, had planned to spearhead the effort to create electronic standards for the entire advertising process, for all forms of media.

Many believe that such open methods of sharing information could result in sizable cost-savings for the advertising world. That was the hope of the big three ad agency holding companies, Interpublic , Omnicom and WPP , who jointly provided $45 million in funding to MediaPort in 2001.

Following MediaPort’s development of the standards, the AAAA had been slated to shoulder the burden of promoting the standards to member agencies, and technology and media vendors who sat on AAAA committees.

But following MediaPort’s shutdown, the New York-based AAAA will take over the entire effort.

“As the trade association representing agencies and working with media, I think we can be perceived accurately as a credible third-party to move this along,” said Mike Donahue, the AAAA’s executive vice president of member services, who had been working with MediaPort on the effort. “We have the opportunity within our committee system to work with the media, with the advertisers, and the vendors.”

Fortunately, Donahue said the standards are “pretty much complete,” with the Radio Advertising Bureau — which has been developing its own standards — being one of the last needed to sign on to the project. Once the standards are developed and approved by the major media groups, the AAAA plans to house them at XMLformedia.org.

The trade association then must work with vendors — such as Donovan Data Systems, Datatech Software, ValueClick’s Adware, and the Coda Group — to roll out standards-compliant translation tools to convert their generally proprietary data-transmission codes into the group’s XML standard.

To oversee the effort at persuading vendors to adopt the standards, the AAAA plans to create an advocacy group made up of representatives from Omnicom, Interpublic, WPP, the Television Advertising Bureau and the Radio Advertising Bureau, along with the heads of the AAAA’s media committees.

“I’m going to try to put this group together once a month to get it moving along,” Donohue said. “Some of the vendors have indicated a faster schedule than others, and we’re hopeful that within a month or so about getting all the vendors to agree to an accelerated schedule.”

“I think it’s going to happen … but it will take time,” he added. “The Donovan people have said they’re interested, and we’re going to keep jawboning them to make sure that time is shorter rather than longer. The agency and media world desperately needs electronic commerce … from avail to billing. The savings that are possible for this are pretty significant.”

The AAAA’s drive to pick up where MediaPort left off on XML standards is the second major effort that the trade association has undertaken to use the Internet in the daily business of buying, selling and trafficking advertising.

In May, the AAAA and the Association of National Advertisers together created Ad-ID — a company that would administer meta-data information standards for identifying and tracking ads, and in digital rights management. Support for Ad-ID will come as a part of the XML standards process, Donohue said.

The efforts to keep the MediaPort plan going also recall the adXML.org initiative, which had aims similar to that of XMLforMedia.org, but which petered out last year. Later in the year, some of the players in adXML — which had been founded by AdWare and Mediaplex (now both ValueClick companies) — moved on to initiatives like the Specifications for Agency/Publisher Communications Exchange (SPACE XML), which is primarily concerned with pre-print processes.

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