REAL-TIME PROGRAM OPENS EYES AT PUBLICIS CLIENTS:ADNET SOFTWARE KEEPS SITES PLUGGED IN TO AD PLAN

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[london] While most advertising agencies are grappling with how to bring more technology to clients, Publicis has come up with what it believes is a real hook.

Publicis has developed a proprietary software package designed to manage campaigns from the initial client briefing to the final invoice. Called AdNet, the agency has found the system to be a proven new-business tool.

A DEAL CLINCHER

Hewlett-Packard's European personal information products group advertising manager, Garth Phillips, cites AdNet as the deal-clincher when the client last month awarded Publicis its $30 million European PC business.

"AdNet was a very significant part of our decision to move to Publicis," said the Grenoble-based advertising manager. "AdNet seems to be quite unique. It was truly a deciding factor for us."

Basically, AdNet is a simple software package based on Lotus Notes that allows client and agency to communicate in areas such as artwork transfer, media reporting, project management and brainstorming in real-time.

"The one thing above all I will get with AdNet," said Mr. Phillips, "is the ability to make real-time decisions that affect my advertising programs. With AdNet I get the ability to make decisions on information that's only a couple of hours old vs. a month old."

In addition to Hewlett-Packard, clients such as Coca-Cola Co. and British Airways have signed on to the 18-month-old, color-coded computer system, said Publicis' head of international business, Joanna Baldwin.

CLIENT-AGENCY INTERFACE

"AdNet becomes the client-agency interface," noted Tim Keogh, London-based account director on Hewlett-Packard and AdNet's creator.

The client or account person anywhere within the network can access the brief, the storyboard or the final product. Up-to-date media spending data and production cost summaries are available. There's even a "What's Late?" report to spot bottlenecks.

"Media expenditure reporting is difficult information to get ahold of," observed Mr. Keogh. "Say you're British Airways, and you're advertising in 60 different markets. The ability to press a button and get the latest media expenditure by region, product, currency and/or brand is outrageously useful," said Mr. Keogh. "Before it would have meant a phone call. Panic would have set in. The agency might extrapolate the numbers, or use month-old figures."

Publicis ensures AdNet contains current financial data by telling Publicis account executives that if they're late filing their numbers, then their salaries will also be late.

Because every client does business differently, AdNet has to be very flexible. "Clients dictate, we customize," said Ms. Baldwin. For example, BA likes to buy its media locally, a task AdNet can accomplish.

A FILING CABINET

AdNet, moreover, is akin to an intelligent filing cabinet that knows who to copy in various reports. For example, if the client approves a media plan, AdNet automatically notifies the media buyer that the campaign is ready to be booked. AdNet then alerts the financial person to expect some transactions and, possibly, to buy and hedge some local currency.

AdNet also incorporates Acrobat-a software package from Adobe-that facilitates sending artwork between agency and client.

"Imagine you're creating a TV commercial to run in 20 markets," explained Mr. Keogh. "Normally it's done by color photocopies of storyboards-which take time, are expensive to send and often get stuck in customs. Or you send a fax of a fax, which nobody can read."

Through AdNet, Publicis can transmit storyboards digitally," he said. "Within hours we can get to people. And within 24 hours we have responses from the client."

Mr. Phillips expects AdNet will encourage Hewlett-Packard's 20-plus European local offices to participate more in decisions.

"We get various requests for [local] adaptations," he said. "We say `no' more often than we say `yes' because we can't approve adaptations in time to meet deadlines. But with AdNet we can approve changes [local offices] want in real-time."

Executives at Intel, a former global client for which Publicis developed AdNet, liked the system because they could check on offices without anyone knowing.

"Intel would want to know what's going on locally, but they don't want to annoy [local managers]. They can `interfere' selectively," explained Ms. Baldwin.

IS IT REVOLUTIONARY?

But not everyone is convinced AdNet is revolutionary.

"I don't see why [AdNet] is so cool," said Alex Letts, chairman of SMI Group, a London-based new-technology agency. "I'm skeptical. It's just an electronic database, which we all have."

But Mr. Phillips believes AdNet is special. "What's unique about it is its completeness and robustness," he said. "The more countries you're in, the more a system like AdNet makes sense. Somewhere in Europe right now, there's a [Hewlett-Packard] media deadline that's about to pass."

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