FRONT OFFICE BY MARY COLLINS

EMCAPP Speeds, Improves Ad Credit Process

Developed by MFM’s subsidiary BCCA, the media industry’s credit association, EMCAPP reduces the time and money spent by all three of the constituencies of the credit application process.

I am very pleased to announce the official launch of availability of “EMCAPP” – the Electronic Media Credit Application that can serve as an industry-wide tool for use by advertisers, advertising agencies and media providers.

Developed by MFM’s subsidiary BCCA, the media industry’s credit association, EMCAPP reduces the time and money spent by all three of these constituencies on the credit application process:

Advertisers and Advertising Agencies/Media Buying services — An advertiser or agency interested in making an ad buy across several media outlets can fill out one credit application for the buy rather than an application for each media company. That same advertiser or agency can also update its credit application by logging into the secure EMCAPP website. Best of all, there is no charge for an advertiser or agency to use EMCAPP.  

Media providers — Stored in a shared database, the single credit application is available to any participating media business whenever and virtually wherever it’s needed. EMCAPP provides complete, legible information to speed the decision-making process for credit departments. It also frees up valuable time for sales departments, allowing them to focus on business development instead of paperwork.

When an advertising agency or buying group is involved in the media purchase, EMCAPP’s back-end monitoring capabilities give media providers online access to a complete credit package for their review: credit applications from the advertiser and the agency as well as an agency of record letter (AOR) when available. In addition, a single agency application can be tied to multiple advertiser applications, streamlining their credit application process.

The AOR is a very important element in overcoming media credit departments’ longstanding challenge of following the money. At its most basic, the AOR documents the relationship between the agency and the advertiser. Without it, as one credit person explained, it’s as if he went to a car lot and picked up a car by saying, “don’t worry; so-and-so will pay for it later.” 

BRAND CONNECTIONS

EMCAPP’s terms and conditions require an AOR that details all of the parties involved in the transaction. We have even included a template letter that can be downloaded, completed and then uploaded again. This should prevent credit departments from being caught by surprise when payments are delayed by a third party in the chain between the advertiser and the media provider.

It is this lack of clarity about the money trail that has led media providers to require dual or joint and several liability, which hold both the advertiser and its agency liable for payment until the balance had cleared the media provider’s bank.

Until 1991, advertising agencies assumed sole liability for paying media providers. This changed when agencies’ financial health was threatened by client defaults. That is when the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) endorsed sequential liability which holds that agencies are only liable for payment after they have been paid. MFM, BCCA and the media industry in general responded by endorsing joint and several liability.

Whether we like to admit it or not, media providers are being paid sequentially by large advertising agencies and buying groups. That’s why EMCAPP’s credit terms are what our members describe as “sequential liability with teeth.”  They say that the advertiser is responsible for payment until the funds have cleared the agency’s or buying service’s bank. And they give media providers the right to, upon reasonable notice, both contact the delinquent advertiser and/or review the agency’s payment records from that client. They also prohibit holding payments for non-disputed portions of invoices.

I, along with a couple of BCCA media credit representatives, met with the 4A’s as we began developing EMCAPP and their response was positive. TVB, RAB, NAB and CAB have all responded enthusiastically. I’ve also spoken about EMCAPP with a couple of big consumer product goods companies.

EMCAPP is also a secure solution. Protected logins, passwords and digital signatures ensure that applications can only be completed, updated and accessed by authorized users. In addition, EMCAPP’s ability to support Ad-ID (advertising digital identification) makes it easy to direct media providers to the appropriate application(s). And simplified credit terms and conditions are attractive to advertisers, agencies and media providers alike.

Each completed application will continue to be available to media providers who subscribe to and accept the terms and conditions of the EMCAPP database until the earlier of two circumstances: either when a given application is updated/withdrawn, or one year from submission. Applications pulled by media providers remain in their history and are updated to include an expiration date when they have expired.

We are making EMCAPP available at no charge to all BCCA members through April of 2014. After that, members will be able to purchase either an annual subscription or a pay-as-you-go plan.

Integrating Credit Applications with Credit History

Participating media businesses can move seamlessly from the EMCAPP website to the BCCA Credit Reporting System, further streamlining the credit-decision process. Users can access two types of credit reports through BCCA. They include BCCA Custom Credit Reports, which are developed by one of our credit investigators and provide the latest information on a particular advertiser or agency, including payment history for recent media purchases.

We currently have more than 40,000 custom reports on local and national advertisers, agencies and buying groups in the BCCA database. Commercial Credit Reports which are not media specific do include: Experian data; D&B (Dunn & Bradstreet) data and enhanced analytics; public information from Edgar online; collection experiences from commercial credit agencies; public record data including liens, judgments and bankruptcy filings; credit score; quarterly and six-month DBT trends; and trade payment experience.

Our Thanks to Katz Media’s Michael Denson and the EMCAPP Task Force.  

MFM and BCCA provided our members a first look at the newly released EMCAPP during Media Finance Focus 2013, our 53rd annual conference, which was held two weeks ago in New Orleans.

The conference was the perfect place for EMCAPP’s debut since the idea for it originated from a conference session several years ago. During a panel discussion involving CFOs from several of the country’s leading advertising agencies, one of the panelists commented that he didn’t have the time or the resources to complete credit applications for every media provider that requested one.

Michael Denson, VP of network credit and collection at Katz Media Group was one of the attendees at that session. The comment fueled his commitment to create an EDI – electronic data initiative for media credit applications. Michael has been a very active member of both BCCA and MFM and he has been a driving force for making that vision a reality.

In fact, EMCAPP was one of the reasons that Michael received the Peter F. Szabo Career Achievement Award at this year’s conference. Like the award’s namesake, Pete Szabo, who founded the Szabo & Associates collections firm, Michael is an active contributor to the programs of numerous credit organizations, including the New York Media Credit Group (NYMCG), where he has served serving as chairman of the organization during three separate periods.

As Michael noted when he accepted the award, he isn’t done with his career yet, which is a great thing for our association and the industry groups we serve. In addition to continuing to serve as BCCA’s representative on MFM’s board of directors, Michael is using his nights and weekends to help edit the next edition of the BCCA Credit and Collection Handbook. While his work on EMCAPP represents one of his greatest contributions, we are grateful that his role in advancing the industry’s credit and collections practices will continue for years to come.

I also want to acknowledge the roles played by MFM’s board of directors and our EMCAPP steering committee. As anyone who has worked on an EDI can attest, the project is likely to end up requiring more resources than ever anticipated. However, MFM’s board maintained its commitment to making the industry’s media credit EDI a reality.

We also owe a great deal of gratitude to our EMCAPP Task Force, whose members put in a tremendous amount of time in order to ensure that the final product anticipated and outperformed all expectations. The committee members are:

  • Marty Morrison, Belo Corp.
  • Linda Powell, Cablevision Media Sales
  • Pam D’Elia, Cox Reps
  • Tony Besaw, ESPN
  • Scott Jenkins, ESPN
  • Mindy Sugarman, Gray Television Shared Services, the recipient of this year’s BCCA Contributor Award
  • Greg Frost, Hearst Television
  • Robert Rollins, Raycom Media, one of this year’s Rainmaker Award winners
  • Dee Stevenson, Schurz Communications (The Herald-Mail Company)
  • C. Robin Szabo, President of Szabo and Associates and a member of MFM’s 2013-2014 Board of Directors
  • Jackie Castellow Turner Broadcasting System
  • John Sloan, Turner Broadcasting System

Recognition from the National Association of Credit Management

To give you an idea on how well EMCAPP is being received among industry experts, it was singled out for an article about best practices for online credit applications by NACM, the National Association of Credit Management. Michel Denson and I had an opportunity to describe EMCAPP for a piece that appeared in the February 2013 edition of NACM’s Business Credit magazine. Entitled “All Hands on Deck — Four Things You’ll Need to Take Your Credit Application Online,” which the article identifies as:

  • Knowledge of Your Customer Base
  • Security and Fraud Prevention Safeguards
  • Technical Know-How, or Someone with Technical Know-How
  • A Change in Corporate Culture

As you can see from my brief summary of EMCAPP, it addresses all four of these criteria. NACM has given us permission to post a copy of the article on BCCA’s website; I encourage you to give it a read. It will help to illustrate not just how much effort was required to create a true electronic credit application process for media advertising, but also how well EMCAPP performs in this space.

Most importantly, I hope you will visit the EMCAPP website, http://www.emcapp.com, and explore how it can help your company to improve CRM (customer relationship management) and allow your ad sales teams to devote the time they won’t spend consulting clients on completing a credit application to providing them consultative sales. While the development piece is done — for the moment — the hard work is just beginning. We need to get advertisers, agencies, media buying services, and media providers to begin using it.

If you have any questions or would like more information about EMCAPP, please email me at [email protected].

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.


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