A new kid on the software block is ready to help advertisers snoop on their competition.

The recent Toronto-based 2003 Marketing Awards was the official launch platform for Eloda, a Montreal developed TV program monitoring software from

a company by the same name. Eloda president, Jean-François Pouliot, explained that in cooperation with a number of advertising industry insiders, his company spent two years developing the patented program, which can automatically distinguish between regular TV programming and a commercial. The software also distinguishes between ads it has seen before and new commercials.

The technology is being used to launch a Web-based monitoring service for marketing professionals, who until now have been drastically underserved by technology, Pouliot said.

The service, he explained, is meant to be used by advertising agencies who create the ads as well as individual companies who are marketing products. Both will be looking to do the same thing with Eloda: get a clear picture of what the competition is doing.

“”When you’re doing competitive monitoring you want to know what your competitor is telling the consumer to seduce him,”” Pouliot said. “”You want to know what they’re saying because they’re talking to someone who could potentially be your customer.””

The system automatically monitors major stations in Canada’s biggest advertising television markets: Toronto, Francophone Montreal, Anglophone Montreal and Vancouver. It records commercials on a daily basis and automatically converts them into digital files. After a 12 to 24-hour delay — time used for transfer and proper indexing of the material — the files get stored in an Eloda library and can be accessed by Eloda subscribers anywhere there’s access to the Internet.

The Eloda site allows users not only to search and analyze advertising activity related to a certain category of products; it also allows them to download commercials they’d like to share with colleagues or even e-mail them. Pouliot, who has worked for years in the marketing industry, said that kind of easy access to material was unheard of before. The appearance of new ads was mostly publicized by word of mouth. Copies of commercials can be obtained from media monitoring agencies but that process takes a long time and can be quite expensive.

“”Usually with monitoring companies you need to go through a rep. You need to explain what you want and they will give you a quote. Exactly on what basis they have made that quote is never clear,”” he said.

Bell Canada director of brand advertising Lucie Bilodeau, who got to test the Eloda service along with her colleagues, said that the service is one unlike anything she has seen before. Bell is considering subscribing its marketing staff onto the service.

“”There are a number of resources a

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