The AOL Networks Blog

The AOL Networks Blog

15 Years of Advertising.com

10/18/13

Wow, time flies.  I can remember my first day at Advertising.com, now 13+ years ago.  I had left my “safe” corporate career job at Arthur Andersen to join a “risky” startup as one of the partners suggested (#irony), and got to be part of the Web "boom" of the late ‘90s and early 2000s.   It’s amazing to reflect on how the company has grown over the years.  Looking back over the past decade plus, there are several things that strike me:

The Early Days

Launching products and iterating quickly was a staple of the business.  We had a lot of ideas – some worked well and others, not so much. There were those that had really successful runs that ultimately lost steam (remember the "GetPaid4" toolbar?) and ideas that were ahead of their time, like serving Mercedes Benz ads into Palm Pilots.  And, of course, we had our share of busts. Looking back, the thing I’m most proud of is that we never lost sight of our North Star: differentiated products and technology that served the customer.  Laser focus on creating long-term value for advertisers, publishers and consumers has been rooted in our culture from the very beginning.   

The Internet Bust and 'Digital Depression' 

In early 2001, the Advertising.com leadership team faced the difficult (but correct) decision to reduce the staff by nearly 40%.  It was one of the hardest times in my professional career.  I remember that day and how personal this was for our founders. It wasn’t about the business – it was the impact on the people who had taken personal and professional risks to join the company.  Ironically, amidst this terrible time was when I truly came to value the culture of Advertising.com.  I realized that, just as in life, it’s easy to do good business in high times; not so easy when it’s in jeopardy.

It was then I realized what an advantage it was that Advertising.com was headquartered in Baltimore -- that more than 80% of our employees were part of this special community.  The bond we all shared as the only digital advertising startup in the region at the time helped us get through the ‘digital depression’ and it proved to be a strong retention asset for those who were committed to the city.  I was one of them.  

"You've Been Acquired"

The business rebounded in full force, and in early 2004 Advertising.com filed an S-1.  The leadership team was  transparent with the employees and staff, and it was a very exciting time.

Ultimately, the leadership and Board received an offer from AOL.  I remember how exciting it was when AOL announced it had made an offer to acquire Advertising.com.  By late summer of 2004, we were part of the AOL family.  How far we had come from just a few years ago when we were fighting for survival.  It was a very different AOL than the AOL of today, and we were fortunate to have Jon Miller and Ted Leonsis as business sponsors as they sought to move AOL beyond a subscription-only business in 2004.  Our cultures were quite different, but they didn’t come in and try to change who we were.  Instead, they gave us room to grow and innovate.  With the ongoing leadership of founders Scott and John Ferber, as well as our president and COO Gar Richlin, we started to innovate and grow in ways we hadn’t envisioned within our new AOL parent.  

Moving to Platforms

It wasn’t long before Advertising.com evolved past the traditional "ad network." Many don’t know this, but one of the biggest innovations that came out of our product and engineering shops was real-time bidding in 2007!  Yes, you read that right, 2007.  While we had already been offering a "closed auction exchange" on a managed services basis, we had quietly expanded into the real-time bidding world.   It would be some time before the market caught up to this. 

Today, we’re leading the programmatic platforms movement.  We service the buy side and the sell side with our product suite offerings, AdLearn Open Platform (AOP) and MARKETPLACE. And we’ve just welcomed yet another game-changing platform asset into the mix, Adap.tv.  Side note: AOL, you haven’t lost your acquisition touch!

The Advertising.com “Mafia”

The Advertising.com alumni network has expanded greatly over the years, and you can find them in influential positions at nearly every major global digital advertising company … at Facebook, Twitter,  Microsoft, and the list goes on and on. Closer to home, it’s remarkable to see the impact Advertising.com has had in growing the Baltimore technology community.  Our alumni have created Videology, founded by Scott Ferber; Lotame, founded by Andy Monfried, and Millennial Media, led by Chris Brandenberg and Steve Root.   

Looking Ahead

Over all these years, perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve learned here is that the only constant is change.  I remember a time when popunder ads were a core part of our business.  (How would we ever survive without popunders!)

There’s always another threat, another pitfall, another company chasing our heels, but even more so, opportunity that presents itself every day.  Over the past several years, I’ve been fortunate to partner with leaders such as Don Kennedy, Chris Heine and others who have driven Advertising.com and now AOL Networks growth through good times and the unavoidable economic and product cycle hiccups.  

For everyone who has helped build this business over the past 15 years, thank you.  You’ve made this a very special place.  Fifteen years is a great achievement.  I hope you’re as excited for the next 15 as I am.

Happy 15th anniversary, Advertising.com. 

Advertising.com Hosts Annual Central Region Thought Leadership Summit

08/15/13

Advertising.com held its Central Region Thought Leadership Summit at the Trump hotel in Chicago on Wednesday, gathering agencies and advertisers to discuss key opportunities and challenges around the evolving trends in premium, programmatic and performance advertising. Hosted by Central Region Network Sales Director Mike Treon, the summit attracted more than 50 senior attendees and AOLers, including Allstate, Bank of America, Cars.com, Kellogg, Chicago Tribune, Digitas, OMD and Starcom.

During the half-day summit, high-level discussions focused on AOL’s "barbell" strategy and how the same notion of balance manifests itself in other industries as technology becomes a permanent feature of modern business. Key topics included programmatic trends, brand measurement, audience targeting, privacy and cross-platform research released that same day.

The holistic agenda featured thought leaders from inside and outside the digital advertising industry: Janna Turner, Bank of America SVP of Digital Media; Brian Bradtke, Experian VP of Partner & Indirect Sales; Professor William Scherer, University of Virginia, as well as key network clients and partners at MOAT and Trunk Club.


Event host Mike Treon and AOL speakers Don Kennedy, Douglas Miller, Willis Duran and Chad Gallagher

AOL experts Don KennedyDouglas MillerWillis Duran, and Chad Gallagher also took the stage to address current and future opportunities for marketers in the room. The team members echoed the industry’s need for simplification, calling on the audience to apply a greater focus on streamlined performance and measurement—within their advertising and operational strategies.


Additional insights came from well-known keynote speakers outside of the digital ad industry: All-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings and four-time NBA champion and TV personality John Salley. Both speakers discussed the importance of human intelligence and personal balance and how crucial it is to nurture these aspects of every industry no matter how much technology becomes a primary driving force.

A month before the first-ever AOL Programmatic Upfront, this event poised Advertising.com to kick off an open discourse on the evolution of digital advertising and what we, as a collective industry, need to do to improve it even more.

Ad Networks Best Practices

07/15/13

Today, the White House announced the Best Practices Guidelines for Ad Networks to Address Piracy and Counterfeiting. In an effort to address content owner concerns about ad networks providing revenue streams to websites engaged in piracy and counterfeiting, the guidelines will help ad networks establish a set of self-regulating best practices to address known infringing sites in their respective ad networks.

Some highlights from the guidelines:

  • Ad Networks are committed to maintaining high quality standards for advertisers and publishers and at the same time respecting intellectual property rights to maintain a healthy Internet and promote innovation. 
  • The best practices include (among other things): 
    • Maintaining and posting policies intended to discourage or prevent, to the extent possible, websites that are principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods, engaging in copyright piracy or otherwise violating laws from participating in the ad network; 
    • Accepting and processing proper notices from rights holders regarding websites participating in the Ad Network alleged to be principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods or engaging in copyright piracy and to have no substantial non-infringing uses; and 
    • Providing guidance for the content of a proper notice and identifying the designated agent to receive such notice. 
  • The best practices are intended to encourage and supplement, not replace, responsible and direct independent actions taken by intellectual property owners to enforce their intellectual property rights and are not intended to impose a duty on any Ad Network to monitor its network to identify offending websites. 

As part of this initiative, AOL, along with Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, established this set of self-regulating best practices to address known infringing sites in their respective ad networks.

AOL has been building trust with our users for more than 28 years. And we have been equally committed to maintaining high quality standards for advertisers and publishers – taking piracy and counterfeiting seriously. Many of the best practices guidelines very much mirror what we have been doing all along at AOL and, consequently, we quickly supplemented our current practice and are now in compliance with the best practices. Advertising.com boasts one of the best networks in terms of quality, which is part of our success story, and this initiative will reinforce that. I commend the collaborative efforts of the participating Ad Networks and the industry to help combat online piracy.

Buysight Rebranded as Advertising.com Dynamic Retargeter

06/24/13

 

As part of an effort to simplify our offerings in the market, Buysight has been officially rebranded as Advertising.com Dynamic Retargeter. The rebranding allows us to fully integrate Buysight into the Advertising.com family and will allow us to better leverage the Advertising.com brand for sales and client marketing. AOL Networks acquired Buysight in December.

Dynamic Retargeter uses online data to dynamically create highly-personalized advertising experiences for consumers in real-time. Dynamic Retargeter increases sales engagement through product-level retargeting to deliver search-like performance on premium Advertising.com and AOL inventory across devices. It complements our broad range of solutions offered by Advertising.com to enable advertisers to both build brand and drive performance at the same time. We've seen great success with Dynamic Retargeter-powered ads in the retail, travel and auto categories, helping to drive incremental sales. 

For more information, visit the Dynamic Retargeter product page on the Advertising.com trade site or reach out to us here to get started.

Advertising.com Hosts Its Annual East Coast Thought Leadership Summit

05/17/13

Advertising.com held its East Coast Thought Leadership Summit at The Standard Highline hotel in New York this past Wednesday, gathering agencies and advertisers to discuss key opportunities and challenges around the evolving trends in premium, programmatic, and performance advertising.

Hosted by East region Network Sales Director, Greg Skipper, the summit attracted nearly 80 senior attendees including Citi, Starwood, Gilt, Lord & Taylor, Travelers, L’Oreal, Digitas, Razorfish, and Ogilvy.

Advertising.com Thought Leadership Summit

During the day long summit, high level discussions were focused around AOL’s barbell strategy, programmatic trends, big data analytics, cross platform research, and mobile. The agenda allowed for conversations with marketing experts Brett Keller, Priceline.com CMO; Elizabeth Francis, Gilt Groupe CMO; Vikram Somaya, WeatherFX GM, as well as key network clients and partners at Citi, Accuen, and Aggregate Knowledge. In-house AOL Networks experts Seth Demsey, Don Kennedy, Doug Boccia, and Chad Gallagher, also took the stage to address current and future opportunities for the marketers in the room. The team members echoed the industry’s need for simplification, calling on the audience to apply a greater focus on streamlined performance and measurement—within their advertising and operational strategies.

To offer unique insights in and out of the digital advertising industry, keynote presenters included David Bell; All-time Jeopardy! Champion, Ken Jennings, and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. While both Ken and the Mayor’s office’s presentations were heavily premised on the science of automation, they emphasized an important message: human intelligence and talent is imperative to innovation in every industry.

By providing an informative, high-touch experience for the audience, Advertising.com was positioned as both an industry thought leader and end-to-end solutions provider, well-poised to carry the market to the next phase of programmatic, premium, and performance advertising.

Read the follow up media coverage here.

Advertising.com Offers Facebook Inventory Through Facebook Exchange Partnership

02/26/13

Advertising.com customers can now access Facebook inventory through AOL's massive premium, cross-screen network. With 608M global unique visitors, Advertising.com is one of the largest providers of programmatic buying, and with the addition of Facebook's 1bn users, our reach is expanded even further. 

We know that advertisers want to include Facebook inventory in their buys – we're seeing it on RFPs – so we're glad to be able to further meet their needs. Marketers can execute both brand and performance campaigns across screens (desktop, mobile, tablet, connected TVs), across formats (video, mobile, premium formats), and now on one of the most visited sites in the world, all with one buy through Advertising.com. 

Working with Advertising.com advertisers will be able to powerfully leverage their own, and AOL's, targeting on Facebook. 

At AOL Networks, our mission is to simplify digital advertising at scale. We are delivering on the intersection of premium and programmatic buying for our clients and this is another step in that direction. 

* comScore Media Metrix January 2013 

Ned Brody
CEO, AOL Networks
Twitter: @NedBrody

AOL's Advertising.com Group Rebranded as AOL Networks

02/05/13

Strong Emphasis on the Intersection of Premium, Programmatic and Performance Solutions Across Screens

New York, NY – February 5, 2013 – AOL today announced that Advertising.com Group has officially been renamed AOL Networks. The new brand, AOL Networks, aligns with its parent brand AOL, and should help all stakeholders better understand the rich stack of assets and robust technology it brings together for its nearly 20,000 publishers1 and 4,000 advertiser and agency clients2. The new name clearly represents the recognized cross-screen offerings across premium, programmatic and performance advertising.

"AOL Networks will continue to offer global advertising solutions that help increase yield through a rich and broad set of platforms, formats, and technologies," said Ned Brody, CEO of AOL Networks. "We have heard from many clients that there is an increasing number of systems and partners they need to do business with to accomplish their online marketing objectives. The group's mission has always been to simplify digital advertising at scale." 

Brody added, "AOL is synonymous with premium. And in the network space, there is a real need for premium experiences. With our established leadership in video, performance and now programmatic, plus AOL's foothold in premium advertising, we are better positioned than ever to define and own a transcending solution."

AOL Networks enables the world's top marketers and media brands to reach consumers across desktop, mobile, tablet and connected TVs with impact through premium experiences, programmatic buying and performance driven campaigns. It is the global partner of choice for leading publishers, advertisers and agencies seeking to maximize the value of their online brands. AOL Networks brands will continue to operate under their existing names:

  • Advertising.com: massive premium, cross-screen network with 596M3 global unique visitors, programmatic buying, a proprietary DSP, and network-exclusive access to AOL inventory.
  • The AOL On Network: largest premium video network4 reaching 67M5 unique viewers.
  • goviral: branded content distributor across premium publisher network in over 90 countries.
  • ADTECH: dominant cross-screen global ad management and serving platform.
  • Pictela: award-winning content-based advertising and premium formats platform.

"Given the synergies between our offerings and customers, and those of our AOL parent, it made the most sense to align the brands more closely together," said Allie Kline, CMO of AOL Networks. "I believe this rebrand will significantly increase market clarity among our key audiences including marketers and publishers."

The new gateway, www.aolnetworks.com launches today, providing publishers and marketers with information on, and access to, all of the offerings in the AOL Networks premium advertising suite.

Simultaneous to the introduction of AOL Networks, BuySight, the recently acquired dynamic creative optimization firm, will be packaged into the Advertising.com product suite.

 

1AOL Internal Data
2AOL Internal Data
3Source: comScore December 2012 
4Source: Comscore December 2012 Total Videos, custom category built by AOL
5Source: comScore December 2012

 

About AOL

AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) is a brand company, committed to continuously innovating, growing, and investing in brands and experiences that inform, entertain, and connect the world. The home of a world-class collection of premium brands, AOL creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale. We help marketers connect with these audiences through effective and engaging digital advertising solutions.

# # #

 
Press Contact
Caroline Campbell
917.606.4772
c.campbell@teamaol.com

Post-CES Predictions for 2013

01/11/13

After spending the past few days in Vegas for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a few unexpected and exciting ad tech trends for 2013 were apparent.

Across the board it appears that brands, agencies and publishers alike are embracing [ad] tech at an impressive new level. Our clients are asking for game-changing innovation at a faster clip than I’ve seen in recent years.

A key example of this rate of innovation comes as news from one of our senior telecomm brand clients stating that they have asked creative teams to spend time on programmatic performance data. Creatives + performance data? You can envision the jaws dropping throughout the room. But today’s creatives – at least the smart ones - embrace both the art and science of digital marketing.

If I could sum it up, there was a theme of having your cake and eating it too. And there are a few key ways in which we are seeing this theme play out:

1. Cross-Platform

Sure we’ve seen cross-platform buys gain momentum in recent quarters, but this was the first time I’ve heard so many brand and creative leads demand display + mobile + tablet reach, augmented by advanced targeting & creative optimization. This time next year, I predict we’ll see big gains in cross-platform and will be talking about entirely new models of integrated data and campaign planning, management & measurement.

2 & 3. Programmatic AND Premium

The industry advanced quite a bit in 2012, and the buzz around programmatic buying and selling has never been hotter. As another example of having the best of both worlds, it seems the more efficient we get at driving performance at scale, the more clients lean in to premium and video. The result is what I like to call the ‘new perfect harmony’: high-performing [programmatic] algorithm + exclusive, top tier inventory + formats with explosive creativity.

4. Branded Content Creation aka Native Advertising

Coke and Pepsi’s Q4 move towards editorial-style site content and branded entertainment clearly resonated with their marketing peers. We should see an increase in custom video creation, content integration and syndication if CES chatter is any indicator. 

5. Social what?

FBX seems to have transformed social into an ad distribution tool. The noise around amassing Likes and building out Fan pages seems to have reduced to a hum, while finding ways to integrate the social network’s ad platform into cross-web campaigns has become a digital media staple. 

Ned Brody
CEO, Advertising.com Group
Twitter: @NedBrody

 

Cross Platform Optimization Insight Series Blog #1

12/18/12

In a recent conversation with a Fortune 100 marketer, I asked our client if we could extend their digital campaign to smartphones. The marketer frowned and said – "I'd love to, but I don't handle mobile. Go talk to our mobile guy – he allocates the budgets independent of us." I found this somewhat concerning; it's like a hedge fund manager being restricted from investing in Asia. It just doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, this is a common response, ad dollars are allocated in silos (e.g. desktop, tablet, smartphone, TV, print, radio) and often managed by different people in different agencies. This results in no holistic data sharing or holistic optimization.

To be fair, this siloed approach made sense in the early days of mobile when the time spent in mobile was minimal compared to other forms of media. However given over 23% of digital time spent is within tablets and smartphones, it’s time to make use of holistic optimization capabilities. Based on our passion for optimization, we are truly excited to officially introduce the “Cross Platform Optimization Insights Series” which is our effort to help inspire our clients and media agencies.

Going back to my financial analogy, I invite you to consider the media planning process through the lens of a hedge fund manager and use technology to allocate funds in real-time across all potential digital platforms. Fundamentally, we believe this is the future of media buying and we want to do our part to help make it better.

For this first entry, let’s look at customer lifetime value, analyzed by device. For years, marketers have considered the inventory source of an acquisition to understand the value of the conversion. However, the source was typically limited to the specific publisher (i.e. Yahoo) or vendor (i.e. Tribal Fusion Ad Network).

Today, we are starting to see customers break out the acquisition data by the device (iPhone 4, iPad, desktop, etc.) and they are seeing drastic results. Recently, a large high-end retailer got 4X the customer lifetime value on Advertising.com tablet conversions compared to typical desktop/laptop conversions. 4X the lifetime value – that's a big deal! Instead of paying $10 per conversion, they can now pay $40 per conversion and obtain the same ROI – drastically growing their ability to win impressions and drive more conversions. To get started in this analysis, we’d suggest assigning different tags to be targeted to different devices and chart the lifetime value of those separate 'device buckets'.

Check back in the upcoming weeks as we'll showcase cross platform insights from both our own data as well as thought proving entries from external experts we respect…all aimed at moving the industry towards smarter cross platform decision making.

To reach out to us about being a guest blogger or to let us know what you think about our blog, please email  Mobile@advertising.com.

If you would like to subscribe to the Cross Platform Optimization Insight Series, click here.

Chad Gallagher
Cross Platform and Mobile, Advertising.com
Twitter: @ChadGallagher

Allie Kline Joins AOL as Advertising.com Group’s Chief Marketing Officer

12/12/12

As the Advertising.com Group has grown, the need for a dedicated leader focused on marketing our broad range of solutions across display, video and mobile has become paramount, which is why I’m thrilled that Allie Savarino Kline has joined as Chief Marketing Officer for Advertising.com Group.  In this newly created global role, Kline will oversee marketing strategy to drive demand for the Group’s advertising solutions for publishers, advertisers and agencies. She will report directly to me.

Kline has an extensive background in brand management and marketing strategy for technology-focused organizations. Most recently she was the Chief Marketing Officer for big data and social graph company 33Across, where she worked with over 375 Fortune 1000 advertisers and 650,000 global publishers. Prior to that role, Kline served as Vice President, Marketing at Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT) where she oversaw the company's brand development, marketing, and athlete and celebrity relationships. Prior to BAT, she ran global marketing for Unicast, a leader in rich media advertising for over 10 years.

Kline earned a B.A. in corporate communications from Ithaca College. She is a frequent industry speaker and press spokesperson, and was named to Fast Company’s “Fast 50” list for Internet video innovation in 2005. Kline also serves as a board member on Jack Myers’ Women’s Media & Mentoring Initiative. 

We are excited to welcome Allie to the Advertising.com Group leadership team. Her experience in brand management, marketing and advertising for technology-focused organizations makes her a perfect fit for this role. We look forward to her leadership in building out our marketing strategy and teams both here and abroad as the Advertising.com Group brand continues to evolve as a force in the online and programmatic marketplace.

Ned Brody
CEO, Advertising.com Group
Twitter: @NedBrody