Ad Platform Takes Web Accountability to TV and Radio

As advertisers grow accustomed to the refined targeting capabilities of online advertising, more want to apply that level of accountability to their offline buys. Radio and television ad management firm SoftWave Media Exchange (SWMX) allows advertisers to target specific groups of radio listeners and cable TV viewers with quick turnaround through its Web platform — something that can especially appeal to political advertisers right about now. The company will add broadcast TV stations to its network soon, and down the road may offer the ability to purchase pre-roll video in conjunction with other media.

Broadcasters “are under a lot of pressure” to be more accountable to advertisers, said SWMX CEO Josh Wexler. Although television media buying and selling entails different pricing structures and different markets than Web media, the SWMX platform was informed by Internet ad serving systems. “The same degree of accountability can apply to what [marketers] get in their offline spend,” said Wexler. The system handles inventory and campaign management, order execution, reconciliation, invoicing, reporting and media distribution.

The company lets agencies and advertisers buy on the top 50 U.S. radio markets, in 38 of the top 50 stations, and on local cable TV reaching a national audience on networks like ESPN, MTV, CNBC and TBS. Advertisers will be able to purchase spots on broadcast TV through the platform soon, and will have the ability to buy specific programs. The ad management outfit tacks on a fee to advertiser costs once the transaction is complete.

SWMX competes with Google-owned dMarc Broadcasting, which also offers a radio ad buying platform. The firm launched officially in February 2005 and recently went public in July.

Using the Web software system registered marketers set age and gender targets to create audience clusters, then layer on day-part targeting preferences and set the ad rates they’re willing to pay. They also upload creative assets through the platform.

The network’s radio and TV operators are then contacted through the system for final approval. A campaign could be off and running by the following day, said Wexler. Such immediacy has attracted political advertisers, including Jeanine Pirro, the Republican candidate for New York Attorney General who’s found it necessary to respond rapidly to reports of criminal investigations. Pirro’s campaign has adjusted its ads using the system to deal with the fallout of negative media coverage in a timely manner, said Wexler.

Online media proponents have long pointed to the Web’s narrow targeting capabilities as beneficial for political advertisers who typically waste radio and TV ad dollars on people outside their states or voting districts. Candidate campaigns, however, remain partial to buying television and radio spots over Web advertising. A platform like SWMX’s enables them to serve ads tailored to particular audiences or markets if, for instance, a candidate is polling better in one district than another.

“This allows political buyers to literally be able to react to the specific needs of their campaigns and be as targeted as the medium will allow,” Wexler noted.

In the beginning, the service attracted direct marketers selling things like nutritional or weight loss supplements and financial services. Such advertisers have well-defined ROI objectives, and “were really how we got our start,” said Wexler. National and regional advertisers including The New York Mets, Earthlink and Bristol-Myers Squibb have also purchased media through SWMX.

As more and more advertisers use the Web as a place for repurposed TV spots, there’s a possibility the ad platform will accommodate online video ad buys in the future, said Wexler. “I absolutely see that coming,” he continued. “Whether it’s a print audience or an Internet audience,
as our platform evolves, you’ll see us moving into other forms of media.”

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