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Web ads: One banner fits all?

Two companies in ad management, Focalink and Bellcore, are working to develop industrywide protocols for Web advertising.

Susan Lutter remembers the "dark ages" when if you wanted to send a fax, you had to make sure that the person on the receiving end had the exact same fax machine.

It wasn't until the 80s that universal protocols were developed to allow any fax machine to connect to any other machine.

Web advertising today is in the same predicament as faxes were then, according to Lutter. That's why her company, Focalink, is working with Bellcore for the development of industrywide ad protocols.

The companies, both of which provide ad management, are proposing to develop an open protocol for communicating Web advertising traffic information, ad materials, and performance data, Focalink said. They're dubbing the protocol SAMP, for "simple advertising management protocol."

Most Web sites, Lutter explained, use their own software to manage the ads they run. Since there are no universal protocols, that means that advertisers (or their agents) have to tweak each ad specifically for the site on which the ad runs.

This translates to one big headache, according to Lutter. She figures if email and faxes can work across any platform using any software, so can ads.

"I can send you email regardless of what program you're using," Lutter added. "We want it to be that fluid back and forth."

Lutter said both her company and Bellcore are working on the protocol and plan to present their work to a group of advertising companies--including their competitors--later this month.

"Once you get a standard," she said, "the industry grows."