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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Business rules and event processing

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James McGovern had a post on business rules and complex event processing in which he discussed the challenges of ESPN Ad's scheduling and asked a question:
how would it work in an overall scheduling architecture that includes complex event processing where the event is some opportunity to go to commercial break and the rule would need to determine the next commercial to show?
Interestingly a major sports broadcaster, that I can't name but which is very relevant to James' question, is actually a user of a business rules management system for what is known as "ad slotting". Slotting is the process by which ads are allocated to particular commercial breaks. This is a complex process for TV channels as they want to maximize their profit from their ad inventory while still meeting the terms of the huge number of contracts they have signed with individual companies for advertising. These contracts can stipulate that a company's commercials are played every hour during a particular time window with a plan to show a certain number in a specified time period. They can also specify that no competitors can advertise in the same slot for instance.

On top of these overlapping contracts a typical broadcaster, especially a sports broadcaster has many schedule changes and this impacts the available ad inventory. With many contracts this is going to make re-scheduling complex, especially if it is done by hand. If this process takes too long not only will the advertiser become cranky (they don't know which slots they are going to get), the sales team won't know exactly what ads it has left to sell. Using a business rules management system to automate this process improves it in a number of ways:
  • Most good rules engines support inferencing and it turns out that this makes an ad slotting application much easier to implement
    Moving an ad causes the re-firing of all the rules to see if any other ads need to be moved as a consequence
  • The rules can be re-run any time there is a new contract or a schedule change
    This helps keep everything up to date making it easier to sell inventory and manage customer relations
  • The people who understand the contracts can also read the rules
    Part of what makes a rules engine interesting is the power it gives business users over rules
  • The rules embody the best judgment of the ad team
    Which improves the process as well as allowing the ad team to work on relationships not on mechanics
Once these ad slotting decisions are automated they can also be optimized using an optimization engine. This would consider trade-offs between the potentially valid ads and optimize the slotting to maximize revenue for the station.

The end result is that the decision as to what ad to show next is actually not a complex one at all as the ad slotting engine has determined what ads to show if there is the option to do so.

Which of course leaves James' question about business rules and event processing. I write about this a lot in my section on event processing and this post on business rules, decisions and events is probably a good place to start.

1 Comment

"where the event is some opportunity to go to commercial break and the rule would need to determine the next commercial to show?"

AFAIK (and per the use case you mention), commercial breaks are purchased (and planned) months in advance. Although unexpected (usually simple) events in live shows could cause TV companies to "jump to commercial" - think "wardrobe malfunctions" etc!

Where CEP might apply is in the selection of which advert to show by the *advertiser* who had paid for the slot, based on events like real-time viewer information (viewer profile), weather info (who's inside), program (eg playing team's home city, who is winning), etc, etc.


James Taylor blogs about decision-management technologies such as predictive analytics and business rules, discussing how they deliver agility, improve business processes and bring intelligent automation to SOA.

James Taylor

James Taylor blogs on decision management for ebizQ, and is an independent consultant on decision management, predictive analytics, business rules, and related topics.

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