Ad-building, Reverse-publishing from BrandMuscle

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By: Jim Rosenberg

Eight years after it was founded, BrandMuscle Inc. was back for its second Nexpo. Last year, the Beachwood, Ohio, company exhibited with Sansui Software (E&P, April 7, 2003). On Jan. 1, however, it took over Sansui’s U.S. operations, and earlier this month it appeared in Washington, D.C., at its own Nexpo booth, where it promoted its self-service ad-building and insertion solutions and its reverse-publishing technology.

The latter have been used for about a year at The star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., to create its Auto Finder and Home Finder tabloid sections. Auto Finder pulls data from NJ.com using XML of the existing data on the Web site. Home Finder relies on Multiple Listings Service data on the Web site.

Ad-building solutions (Creative, Work and Media Centers) rely on Adobe Flex technology, an open-source framework for crating Web-based applications across all browsers and operating systems. BrandMuscle Business Solutions Manager Kumba Alafi said he believes his company is the only one using the technology for online creation and submission of ads.

“We feel that using Adobe Flex gives us a little bit of a leg up in comparison with others out there,” Business Development Manager Nick Thompson remarked.

BrandMuscle can skin its ad-building product’s interface to resemble a newspaper’s Web site. When a user chooses a category and sub-category, templates are made available for the type of ad and various advertising packages are presented, as are several ways to compare them. Users can specify the date(s), chose from available zones, and make use of a gallery of 2.8 million images or supply their own by pulling digital images into their ads.

The product offers numerous text and color controls, and Adobe Flex facilitates changing the positions of boxes to move around components within ads.

The system can be used to create print and/or online ads. Though the same color palette is available for each, Alafi said BrandMuscle will work with newspapers on color availability appropriate to inked paper or illuminated pixels. Some papers, he said, may send a sample of what an ad can or will look like.

An upsell screen precedes ad submission, after which file and transaction information are returned to the user. Ad manager is an archive of past ads that a user can access for reference, repurposing, or updating — say, for a new special, a sale for a different holiday or the same holiday in a subsequent year.

“Right now, we’re in beta” with one U.S. customer, said Alafi, adding that BrandMuscle is in talks with three other newspapers within the same group, which he did not identify. With repeated staff reductions, said Thompson, newspapers have been showing increased interest in the product category.

And despite the Nexpo’s very low attendance, he called it a good show with steady traffic. “It’s been very encouraging for us,” Thompson said, citing interest from big-name groups to weeklies.

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