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Smooth Asset Workflows, Bigfoot, and UFOs

December 1, 2011

By Harold S. Geller, Senior Vice President, Cross Industry Workflow, 4A’s and Managing Director, Ad-ID

{Bigfoot wants to know:  "People have been trying to identify me for decades.  How tough can it be to accurately identify commercial spots and programs?"}

We all have a nagging feeling all three could exist.  Many would like to believe they could be real.  All we need is some proof.  Hard evidence.  Something that could tangibly demonstrate that their existence is at least possible

Today, about 70-85% of cable network commercials are digitally delivered.  Most of the internal workflows are only partially automated, and therefore are subject to human error.  Most still require conversion and significant amounts of human intervention.

I was recently part of a distinguished panel of experts at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Annual Conference in Hollywood that explored the topic of File-based workflows.  This is the process of moving digital files, ads and long form content (movies, episodic and sports content) through stages of production to airplay with integration to business systems. 

What does that mean?  Limited human intervention, removal of tape and manual steps, as well as the reduced duplication of effort, are key components.  With the reduced duplication of effort, its two main characteristics -extra cost and increased errors- are diminished as well. 

Traditional methods are no longer adequate for distribution of media assets.  Content is consumed via the internet, over the top, mobile, digital out of home, the list goes on ad nauseam.

Where do we start?  We start at the moment of creation, the beginning of asset creation, with consistent asset identification and description, whether for commercial advertising or program content.  The descriptive information then accompanies the medium through the media assets life cycle, to the consumer.  However, at this juncture this industry standard needs to be completely implemented.  We are at a historic juncture in this area, the engineering, production and advertising, and research communities, are focused on solving these issues of file based workflows.

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) - Track-Able Asset Cross-platform Identification (TAXI)

CIMM members include television content providers, media agencies and advertisers with a goal to promote innovation in audience measurement for television and cross-platform media in partnership with such valued institutions as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

In May 2011, as part of its Cross-Platform Measurement Initiative, the CIMM released the results of a Feasibility Study called "Track-Able Asset Cross-Platform Identification" (TAXI).

For the study, Ernst & Young was hired to interview different constituencies in the Media and Entertainment industry, focusing on six key attributes: Simple, Interoperable, Inextricably Bound, Extensible, Open and Global, and Cost Effective.  Ultimately the focus was to determine if it's feasible to adopt standardized guaranteed unique digital asset coding that links to descriptive information.  This standardization would allow systems to track assets throughout the media ecosystem, a unique file-based workflow.  Both Ad-ID and the Entertainment ID Registry (EIDR) possess attributes of TAXI, whereas Ad-ID identifies Ads and EIDR identifies Long Form Content.

Findings from the study show that it is both feasible and desirable by all facets contributing to the lifecycle of the media asset.  Furthermore, the industry is unequivocally ready for a common open standard approach to asset identification. 

The Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA)

Ad-ID and the AMWA have efforts underway that enable, accelerate, and support File-based advertising workflows.  The AMWA "Commercial Delivery File Format" (AS-12) , also known as the "Digital Commercial Slate" which will begin trials in early 2012, aims to insure that the same identifier should travel down through the entire commercial's lifespan, thus reducing rekeying, improving workflow, and establishing a firm foundation for reporting and analytics across all platforms.

Association of National Advertisers Marketers' Constitution

The Marketers' Constitution states: "The marketing supply chain must become more efficient and productive".  In order to achieve this everything must become digital. 

Ad-ID is the industry standard for coding and digital assets and implementing file-based workflows across the entire marketing supply chain-from commercial production through distribution and airplay.  Marketing efficiency enables us to shorten the supply chain, reduce waste and improve productivity.  Fully embraced by the marketing industry, Ad-ID improves the accuracy of reporting and evaluation of advertising assets, affording process improvements and cost savings for all involved.

Smooth asset workflows are not only useful, but are necessary when working in today's evolving media market.  The good news is that a toolkit already exists, with new tools on the horizon, to help out in making these workflows as efficient as possible.  In the words of Bigfoot's pal from another Galaxy, "With my superior intellect, it's obvious that the key to moving these 'smooth asset workflows' from the realm of myth to reality is the use of basic tools such as Ad-ID, EIDR, and AMWA "Commercial Delivery File Format".

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