In the world of publishing, Time Inc. needs little introduction. One of the largest consumer publishers in the world, its portfolio reaches more than 100 million people with well-known titles such as TIME, FORTUNE, Sports Illustrated, and People.
As one of the pioneers of digital ad submission process and practice, Time Inc. probably has more experience with the online submission of advertising than any other publishing company. “Time Inc. was one of the key initiators in the creation of the ad portal concept”, says Kin Wah Lam, Director of Digital Development . We implemented best practices for ourselves, and then began working with vendors so that they could develop technologies that would eventually reach the publication eco-system. We also worked with industry associations to help push the adoption of ad portals throughout the industry.”
So why did Time Inc. want to move to an online-only model of advertising submission? “It’s obvious!” replied Kin. “We are living in a world of internet technology that gives us the ability to perform fast, reliable and secure business-to-business transactions. We bank online and buy things online, so we can certainly send files to each other online.”
Moving to an online model would clearly provide a number of benefits – not least a level of automation and QC far beyond simply sending a file (i.e. including preflighting, size checking, and so on). In addition, an online system would help eliminate the time that staff spends informing advertisers each time there is a problem with the submitted file.
“One can draw parallels with the concept of “Total Quality Management”, or TQM.” says Peter Meirs, VP Production Technologies at Time Inc. “TQM assumes that every segment of a process hands off perfectly to the next segment. Before we started using an ad portal to filter out problems, supplied ads were prone to fail. We no longer deal with the fact that a certain percentage of ad submissions are going to be bad.”
“An ad portal would give the assurance of knowing that everything the publisher received had been subjected to a rigorous vetting and checking process. If a file failed to meet any specification, the advertiser would know immediately. The entire process becomes streamlined, saving time and money for both publisher and advertiser it’s a “win-win” scenario for all concerned.”
Prior to adopting SendMyAd, Time Inc. had been using another vendor’s system. Ultimately, various technical and application-based restrictions from the other system hindered the speed of adoption of the ad portal by the advertisers. Time Inc. realized that a new ad portal needed to be implemented.
The new system had to be a 100% web-based model, offering stringent file testing to ensure that the ad met mechanical and technical specifications, as well as being easy for users to implement. “The changeover to SendMyAd was clean and quick,” continues Peter. “Around 3,500 advertisers moved from the old system to the SendMyAd portal in around thirty days. There were no handover problems or cross-training issues. The users simply moved from one system to another.”
“Advertiser feedback from our current ad portal has been very positive,” says Kin. “One issue that we completely eliminated is the subjectivity of placement of the ad, relative to the trim size on the page. SendMyAd provides advertisers with full control of ad positioning on the page. We didn’t have that before.”
Today, every single ad comes in via the portal. “It’s been like that almost since we started,” continued Kin. “We don’t do anything in half measures that would be too confusing for everyone. Our process requirements are strict and thorough, but we do that to protect the advertisers and this, ultimately, helps the industry. Both Time Inc. staff and management have fully embraced the ad portal because of the efficiencies that it has brought to the process.”
Peter noted that “SendMyAd has significantly reduced user-error issues. Also reduced is the number of calls that our production people have to make to resolve submission problems. A key part of the successful move to SendMyAd has been in the area of technical support. “SendMyAd has continued to implement new features, as needed, and has modified the user interface to make it as intuitive as possible.”
Peter continues “SendMyAd has helped to streamline the ad delivery process. One capability that they have recently provided is a way of packaging ads destined for the tablet versions of some of our titles. The content components need to be presented in a particular way for ingestion into our content publishing system. The portal has helped us simplify that process.”
The popularity of mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad has raised the profile of digital content delivery for many publishers from both editorial and advertising perspectives. While continued development of the portal to support Time Inc.’s digital editions is planned, Peter doesn’t see an urgent need for new features. “We have to remember that, regardless of all the attention that’s been given to tablets and mobile, there’s still a ways to go before digital ad volumes approach the rate of print ad volumes.
Kin offers some advice for any company looking to implement an online ad submission portal of their own. “It’s important to be aware that, technically, not all ad submission portal solutions are created equally. We are very strict in terms of the quality of files that our ad portal will accept. This, unfortunately, is not the case with some ad portals in the marketplace. As a result, an ad that passes verification from one portal may not get through our portal. Lowering standards will lead to problems with bad files proliferating within the industry.”
So what of the future? Not surprisingly, both Kin and Peter take a keen “hands-on” interest. “We are active in the SendMyAd User Group, and we have hosted the meeting in our building the last couple of years,” says Peter, “It’s a forum where the industry people provide feedback and share new requirements with the principals at SendMyAd.”
“Our business is changing rapidly. We’ve gone from receiving only print ads submitted in digital form to a process that includes new digital platforms such as tablets and mobile devices. The publishing industry is starting to work with a number of new and different formats and specifications. It’s important that we all work together to address issues that affect us as an industry.
“Partnering with open and flexible companies such as SendMyAd is a key part of the process. We value their contribution in helping us develop best-of-breed practices for digital ad submission within Time Inc. We are happy to share our learning to help optimize the process of digital ad delivery across the industry.”