AdsML has chosen four primary targets for improvement:
- E-commerce “round-trip” from order to payment: enable a completely digital workflow for the scheduling, booking, invoicing, and payment of an ad. This thread links together all of the transaction-related communications between a buyer of advertising and a seller of advertising.
- Automated delivery and receipt of ad materials: ensure that the artwork for each ad is delivered on time and to the right location, and then efficiently placed into the publisher’s workflow.
- Processing and syndicating classified ads: reduce the complexities involved in publishing a classified ad in multiple media and/or products (e.g. both print and online versions of the same ad), while making it easier for publishers to offer interactive capabilities such as searching and filtering of published ads based on their content.
- Technical integration: provide guidelines, best practices and a technical framework to help developers add digital message exchange capabilities to their systems.
The advertising lifecycle
The AdsML business process model is organized according to major phases of the advertising life cycle:
- Campaign brief – Advertisers and media agencies publish their need for advertisement space
- Mediapack – Publishers and space selling companies can describe their advertising offers, including technical specifications and rate cards
- Planning – Quotations and reservations, production planning
- Booking – New confirmed orders, changes and cancellations
- Production – Content production, content transmission and materials management
- Publishing – Ad placement, publication (including rotation of content) and performance monitoring, proof of publication
- Payment – Invoicing and statements, payment notifications.
In every one of the identified phases, AdsML provides a generic workflow model where each information exchange is identified, named and described. AdsML users can use the model as a reference point for locating and understanding their own business in the context of the ‘big picture’ background of the whole advertising lifecycle.
AdsML’s mission is to create a comprehensive, global standard for end-to-end advertising workflow across all media involving all actors in the advertising industry. With the help of AdsML, it is possible to tie together all of the parties involved in producing, booking, distributing and publishing an ad as if they all used the same software system.
With the contextualization given by the advertising lifecycle, trading partners can identify the business messages and types of data (e.g. technical specifications, production content) that their processes will need to receive and send, and the types of processes that they will need to integrate and interact with as they conduct business.
Depending on when in the advertising lifecycle trading partners are active, different message exchange patterns will be of interest. Some actors exchange many types of business messages with trading partners of different types, spanning many phases in the advertising lifecycle, while others are only involved in a small set of exchanges in a particular stage.
AdsML business message specifications
While the AdsML business process model provides complete coverage of the advertising lifecycle, it is important to note that not all messages identified in the model have actually been implemented as AdsML specifications. The complete process model serves as the overall roadmap for the AdsML Consortium, but the actual delivery of message specifications has been conducted in a phased manner governed by priorities and funding provided by the AdsML member organizations.
Currently, AdsML provides thorough specifications of business message exchanges covering workflows from the early planning to payment phases. It is possible to go from quotations and bookings, through production and materials management to order reconciliation and invoicing purely using AdsML messages.
The latest release of the AdsML Framework includes production ready versions of the following business level message specifications:
- AdsML Media Pack – This specification covers the exchange of of pricing information, i.e. rate cards, including limited support for technical specifications.
- AdsML Bookings – This specification covers the order workflows, going from quotations and reservations to confirmed orders in the Planning and Bookings phases of the advertising lifecycle.
- AdsML Materials – This specification covers materials delivery in the Production phase.
- AdsML Proof Of Publication – This specification covers part of the Publishing phase. It is used to report back from the publisher to the buyer about the actual publication of the advertisement, for instance by means of an electronic tearsheet and information about the performance of the advertisement.
- AdsML Financials – This specification provides the basic financial messages for debit (invoices) and credit notes as part of the Payment phase. In addition to common invoicing data, the messages include advertising specific structures to facilitate order reconciliation.
The major areas of the advertising lifecycle where AdsML does not provide any or limited support in terms of published specifications are:
- Campaign Brief – The earliest phase of the lifecycle are generally handled by manual processes with small potential for automation and e-commerce.
- Media Pack – The delivery of technical specifications (tech specs) has limited support in the AdsML Media Pack specification.
- Planning – Ad space inventory management and publication planning have not been specified. It is, however, envisaged that parts of the inventory control process can be performed using AdsML Bookings messages providing information to the buyer regarding ad space availability.
- Production – Production order messages instructing how material for an advertisement is to be created have not been specified.
- Publishing – The internal workflow within a publisher’s operations leading to the actual publication of an advertisement has not been implemented.
- Payment – General financial messages such as statements have not been implemented (although statement information can be conveyed as notes within an invoice). Such messages are considered to include little, if any, advertising specific data.
For some workflows there are also already established, non-AdsML, messaging standards available. For instance, the Finvoice standard for electronic invoices is used in Finland; IfraAdConnexion is used for Planning and Bookings phases in Scandinavia. This means that even though the AdsML process model is used as a general architecture, particular message flows can be implemented using message standards from other suppliers than AdsML itself, when required by local practice. But it is strongly recommended to use AdsML messages in as many workflows as possible since they are designed to work together.
From early planning to invoicing, the same information model and message choreography is used in the AdsML Framework, leading to the smallest possible gap between the phases in the advertising lifecycle.
Other AdsML specifications
In addition to the business level message specifications, AdsML also provides the following specifications:
- The AdsML AdTicket specification defines a simplified model of materials metadata intended to be embedded directly in an artwork file. It may, for instance, be implemented using the Adobe XMP technology.
- AdsML Envelope is a technical level specification for reliable message transfer over open standard internet communication channels. Business level messages or materials files such as a PDF or MP3 may be wrapped in an AdsML Envelope and transmitted by AdsML Envelope aware applications. These so-called AdsML Envelope Processors are intended to act as a messaging hub for an organization, allowing business level applications to communicate in a simpler way.
- AdsML Structured Descriptions is a specification for how to create and implement a detailed machine-readable description about the content of an advertisement. One of the most obvious use cases is for classified ads where, for instance, the metadata for a car ad could include a description of its make, model, price and equipment.