AOL Believes Ad Networks Have a Bright Future

Dave Jacobs manages third-party publisher partnerships for AOL’s Advertising.com. Jacobs believes that the company’s strongest asset is its data partnerships and large content network. While he acknowledges that ad exchanges and RTB are changing the landscape, he is confident that ad tech and platforms can’t kill the ad network.

With all the talk of ad exchanges and programmatic buying, what’s the future for an ad network like Advertising.com?
We see ad networks as providing a well-lit environment for marketers to achieve brand objectives and performance objectives as well. Certainly exchanges and programmatic buying are becoming an integral part of the ecosystem and we use ad exchanges ourselves to achieve marketers’ objectives, but we see ad exchanges as a natural evolution of the ad network business. At Advertising.com we see it as important that we participate in all the parts of the value chain, whether its directly with the publisher or working through ad exchanges.
AOL seems focused on brand advertising and content. Where does Advertising.com fit in there?
AOL is definitely focused on a lot of branded content and advertising initiatives, that’s true. The way we have positioned our business, within Advertising.com is that we are looking at the business from the standpoint of advertiser objectives, so we incorporate things like our vertical content offerings that we’ve branded as the Advertising.com “super channels.” These super channels allow advertisers to meet specific demographic-targeting objectives in specific content areas of focus. We’re also in the process of launching our Devil ad formats across advertising.com network. With AOL, HMPG, and Advertising.com, we have the combined strength of three of the industry’s top brands and we’ve also built in data from AOL’s eAddressable Data and AOL’s comprehensive set of data partnerships that none of our competitors have. This makes our data a differentiator and not a commodity.

Can we really dress up display with lots of bells and whistles and begin to drive better results? Engagement rates are still extremely low across the board for everyone.
We are definitely seeing new ways that users are engaging and interacting with content through advertising. It is not just about the click anymore. Marketers want more measurement around the actions taken by users and ultimately assess their feelings towards a particular brand. The click used to be the benchmark for engagement, but what a user does after they click was something not previously measured. We see the Devil ad units as a way to solve the marketers’ measurement challenges. With an average of 6.9 percent engagement rates and 6.71 percent interaction rates, we know that these units are highly effective creating a more positive brand experience for users while maintaining the integrity of the editor’s story. We are seeing much better metrics around engagement these days, and the industry needs to recognize that.
What role does content play in making the display ecosystem work for publishers and advertisers?

Content is still king. It’s what drives our industry. Users spend over half of their time online, 53 percent to be exact, engaging with content. We know that users are looking for a positive experience while viewing content, and do not like interruptions or distractions. Marketers are definitely the experts when it comes to the look and feel of their pages, and no publisher can recreate that on their own. And we’re ready to take the product innovation we’ve been driving in display to video. You may have seen our announcement recently that AOL is partnering with VivaKi to create a new ad unit. Without the high-quality content that advertisers are creating, we would have no reason to innovate and push ourselves to make the Web a better place for consumers.


Marketers are now able to manage a lot of the audience-management and content-management process themselves using platforms. Is this a threat to companies like yours?

We see the marketplace convergence happening at the intersection of content and audiences. Marketers want to be able to reach both at scale. The rise of the platforms over the past 18 months has had a lot to do with finding audiences efficiently. While efficient on one level, we find that it neglects a full view of meeting advertiser objectives such as monitoring viewing-frequency and ad placement. Providing publishers tools to better market solutions themselves, including premium formats and the data and insights to arm them with better knowledge about their own users, is critical to ensure that the publishers are comfortable spanning the entire continuum of marketing objectives.
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