OUTDOOR BUYING SERVICE GOES ONLINE

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American Billboard Network is putting an outdoor medium on an indoor platform.

ABN, a new World Wide Web service (http://webmart.freedom.net/abn/index.html) created by Fogelsville, Penn.-based software company Imirage, links outdoor board companies with suppliers, advertising agencies and buying services. Users will have access to general information, statistics, rates and images of outdoor sites, and the system will permit buying transactions and give precise information on when ad buys go up or down.

"It brings outdoor into the 21st century and provides a single place to go for potential buyers," said Diane Cimine, chief marketing officer for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

An OAAA spokeswoman said the association's marketing goals for the industry include creating an online buying and information service.

Matthew Outdoor Advertising, Bangor, Penn., is the first to sign on with ABN, but the service will be offered to others in the field.

"This idea is long overdue," said James McAndrew, president of Matthew. "My hope is to introduce more advertisers to buy our space."

Matthew, with annual billings of $12 million, has tried to gain a competitive advantage over larger rivals like Gannett Outdoor and Patrick Media Group by working closely with Imirage to structure and promote the ABN program.

The service, which is partially up and running, will be able to begin making buys by early June. Matthew now has visuals for about a dozen boards on the service and plans to add many more. Once other outdoor companies join, ABN expects to make package deals across various companies and markets.

Outdoor companies are charged a one-time $20,000 software fee, annual dues of $1,000 and $300 a month per 100 boards listed on the system. Members may also have a home page created for $1,400 a month.

Agencies and suppliers pay $1,000 per year, while buying services are charged a heftier fee of $20,000 annually.

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