CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: PROFILE/REAL MEDIA - Pioneers of online ad management doing legwork for traditional press. Open AdStream has been helping publishers move advertising sales over to the Net. By Steve Shipside

The traditional media companies that have featured in this series so far are not the only ones vying for a slice of the digital future.

The traditional media companies that have featured in this series

so far are not the only ones vying for a slice of the digital


Their more specialist competitors may be young in comparison but since

their businesses rely entirely on their ability to make new media work,

the newcomers are both more focused and more innovative than their

old-media counterparts.

Should the dinosaurs be worried? Indeed they should, but sometimes,

happily, they can also be the beneficiaries of the work carried out by

these leaner, keener pioneers. Three years ago, it would be fair to say

that few people in the UK regional press were worrying about online

advertising sales.

Today, however, some of the biggest players, including Newsquest and

Northcliffe Newspapers, have already embraced such technology, enabling

them to take advantage of the growing online advertising market.

How have they managed this? By signing up the ad management specialist,

Real Media, which for the past three years has been doing their job for

them, developing and perfecting a bespoke ad management system, Open


The software, which enables advertisers to target particular audiences

via a large number of different sites, is now used by more than 700

media owners around the world.

Tim Brown, the company’s UK managing director, explains: ’The whole

thing started in the United States with Dave Morgan, a lawyer working

for a regional newspaper association. He was looking at how technology

was going to affect the future of traditional newspapers in the light of

audiotext, the Net, and so on, and he set up Real Media with the aim of

finding online revenue streams for regional sites, whether through

sponsorship, banners, site-building, custom content or content


In late 1996, Morgan expanded into Europe by striking a strategic

partnership with the Swiss media conglomerate, PubliGroupe, where Brown

worked. Real Media has since set up offices in France, Switzerland and

Sweden, as well as in the UK.

’We realised that publishers wanted to control their own ad management

tools and control the delivery of ads locally,’ Brown explains. ’But

what they couldn’t do was national advertising sales, so that’s where

our approach to ad management came in, selling Open AdStream to local


Today, Real Media competes for publishers’ business against rival tool

suppliers such as Dart, NetGravity and Accipiter as well as ad networks

like Double Click.

Brown confidently asserts that Open AdStream is not only the tool with

the largest user base in the US, but also the standard in Germany,

France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.

And in Britain? ’To be honest, in the UK our competitors have done very

well with ad management tools, but in the regional press we are the

market leaders.’

Locally, Real Media is the one-stop online sales point for not only

Newsquest and Northcliffe, but the Belfast Telegraph, the Manchester

Evening News, Emap Online and, since May this year, the AdHunter site,

which brings together classified advertising from virtually all the

country’s local press.

This core service is combined with an ability to organise pan-European

packages (aided and abetted, of course, by the forthcoming single

currency). Even on a pan-European footing, Real Media isn’t the only

player in this game - Interads, for example, treads the same beat - but

Brown remains confident that the com-pany has a clear-cut strategy to

distinguish itself in the maturing market.

’We concentrate primarily on brands rather than the network sales

approach (of rivals like Double Click) so it’s about the individual

sites involved not network sales figures. We just don’t think

advertisers and agencies are ready to buy entire target audiences as

such - they are concerned about who is delivering the audience, and so

they aren’t going to say yes to a deal regardless of what sites deliver

their banner.’

Instead, Brown argues, agencies want the be sure of the traditional

strengths of branding: ’The key is good quality delivery, so we ensure

we represent unique and premium sites.’

The twin approach leaves the company with a healthy and decidedly

dominant position. ’In the regional press we took what we were after. We

now have 60 per cent of all the regional papers, which we can offer as a

one-stop sales point.’