A case for Ad-ID in Radio


At the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) 2009 conference, held on March 18th , in Orlando, I announced the “Radio Accountability Initiative,” which was endorsed by the RAB, and 4A’s. The initiative revolves around industry adoption of Ad-ID, the only advertising asset coding system supported and authorized by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) across all media.

Allow me to offer the following analogy:

A marketer would never dream of releasing a product without a UPC code. That’s because the code is at the center of a product’s lifecycle. Revolutionary when first used in the early ‘70s, the UPC code is the standard identifier that’s used to track inventory, shipping and consumption of a product, in addition to enabling trend data related to that product. The UPC code has associated descriptive fields, known as metadata, which describe the product, and it’s keyed in once. Metadata is available for reading from a central database via Web services, which allows further evaluation of the product, its facets, consumption and usage.

If marketers wouldn’t release their products without standard identifiers, why would they allow their advertising partners to release advertisements without standard identifiers?

Ad-ID is the only industry supported and authorized identifier for advertising assets across all media. It’s guaranteed to be globally unique, has more than 70 metadata fields (including advertiser, product, brand, ad title, medium, agency, and length / size), and provides Web services that are available to authorized users. Currently without Ad-ID, from the time that an advertiser gives approval to create an ad, to the time that the ad actually airs and is invoiced to the agency, that metadata is rekeyed up to 20 times. That’s a huge duplication of effort, opening enormous possibilities for human error. If you can’t consistently identify it, how can you accurately measure and aggregate it?

The 4A’s recently changed my title to SVP, Cross-Industry Workflow, to reflect the association’s commitment to improve the way that advertisers and agencies communicate and interact with their partners throughout the marketing communications landscape, including production, distribution, archival, and the media, to improve marketing accountability, reduce human error, and to bring value to the advertiser.”

A good definition of workflow, is “a depiction of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person, group of persons, an organization of staff, or machines. The flow being described often refers to a document, or asset that is being transferred from one step to another.”

Ad-ID and its associated metadata can enable fully digital workflow of radio commercials, and improve the accuracy of usage, reporting, and evaluation of advertising assets, and associated spending, and media evaluations across all media. The Radio Accountability Initiative is not about endorsing any individual vendor or methodology (this is up to agencies, advertisers and the media); this initiative is about providing a foundation to advertising like UPC in packaged goods, or ISBN for books.

There are currently three user roles within Ad-ID: Creator, Injector, and Reader.


The Creator inputs the metadata into the system through the Ad-ID Web site or via Web services. Much of the slate metadata (advertiser name, brand name, and product name) can be standardized. The company “Procter & Gamble,” for example, can be represented in a variety of ways—“P&G,” “P & G,” “P and G,” “Procter and Gamble,” etc. This role is generally filled by the advertising agency or the advertiser.

The Injector role allows authorized third-party entities to inject necessary Ad-ID metadata into formats like Adobe XMP through Web services, eliminating the need for manual re-entry (and its resulting inefficiencies).

The Reader role is a user who needs the descriptive or slate metadata that would normally have been manually input from source documents, e-mail, faxes, and handwritten notes. Examples of candidate Ad-ID “readers” could range from a production house creating an ad, to a post-production or commercial distribution facility to a radio station. Advertisers can also use Ad-IDs and associated metadata for billing and tracking purposes, and they can be associated with the actual files contained in digital asset management systems.


In endorsing the Initiative, Jeff Haley, president-CEO, RAB, said “As radio aims to grow its share of ad dollars, proof of performance, improved commercial workflow and consumer interactivity are increasingly important at the station level. It is beneficial to make radio commercials as interactive as the purchase-enabled songs to which they are attached.”

Since the initiative was announced, several vendors, and station groups have expressed interest in joining the initiative.  As more vendors come on board, and adopt Ad-ID and other technologies, more capabilities and innovation will emerge.

–Harold S Geller is Managing Director, Ad-ID LLC, and SVP, SVP Cross Industry Workflow|, American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s). Harold is a member of the board of the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) and speaks and writes extensively regarding digital workflow and metadata in advertising.

Harold’s advertising career spans nearly 30 years, in the United States and Canada, and he has worked in media buying/planning, account management, financial, and technology roles at MindShare, Ogilvy & Mather, and McCann Erickson, and the defunct Ted Bates and Foster Advertising.

Harold can be reached @ [email protected]