AOL-Microsoft Ad Deal Bears Fruit As MSN Receives New Injection Of Native Formats

AOLMicrosoft’s ad offering is getting a facelift with the addition of premium ad formats from AOL, beginning first with its property.

MSN will get access to five new ad types, including adaptive mobile units such as AOL’s Devil Full Page Flex. It’s the first major ad update for the company since Microsoft transferred its display ad business to Verizon-owned AOL last June.

The high-impact, expandable formats are available immediately in the US, Canada, Japan and Spain, with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Brazil to come in March. AOL also plans to bring to MSN this quarter interactive video and linear units, including a branded skippable format.

Although these additional placements are for now limited to MSN, AOL certainly has other Microsoft properties on the mind.

“We’ll be looking at how we can develop new ad experiences that are complementary across all our environments,” said Gianluca Milano, senior director of premium formats product for AOL.

“All” environments means platforms across the AOL, Microsoft and Verizon fold, such as Skype, Outlook, Xbox, Microsoft’s mobile Ads-In-Apps program, which includes MSN Travel/Gaming, or foreseeably the Verizon mobile video service Go90. 

“For example, we’re looking at Xbox and how we can incorporate gamification functionality that can be very contextual and complementary to that particular experience, but where maybe there’s also opportunities where we leverage the native feel of Skype,” Milano said. “We’ve been looking at creating some unique ad experiences that leverage Verizon data.”

Milano didn’t divulge what those unique experiences are, but said Verizon/AOL is in the process of running tests for products that remove friction from consumers’ mobile journeys.

The expanded ad formats on MSN point to more programmatic access to Microsoft’s offering. Before AOL entered the picture, MSN video inventory was largely direct sold. As for game console Xbox, sources said its inventory was virtually absent from the exchanges.

“One of the things we’ve focused on is integrating our tech stacks, so obviously we’ll be able to serve into a direct-sold [instance] but they’re also leveraging our ONE by AOL: Video product (formerly to support some of the non-reserved inventory,” Milano said. “We’re definitely making that available more programmatically.”

AOL will help Microsoft maximize yield more programmatically across its properties and its unified sales team is responsible for MSN’s direct reserved sales business. There is still a relationship with AppNexus for some of the non-reserved inventory and AOL expects to maintain an open relationship there.

Beyond the native ads and interactive video on MSN, AOL is also adding premium formats to Millennial Media’s network of 65,000 apps and claims it will expand in-app rich media by four times through a new integration with Twitter’s MoPub and Nexage (now part of ONE by AOL: Mobile).

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has referred to 2015 as AOL’s investment year, while 2016 will be about execution and uniting some of its key acquisitions.

“Some of the things we’re doing now from a product standpoint are starting to thread some of those investments together,” Milano added. “We have a lot of great formats we’ll be able to scale across Microsoft and Millennial, as well as through the MoPub and Nexage integrations.”

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1 Comment

  1. AOL understands mobile advertising better than Millennial Media and its lucky for MM that they are in good hands. Good gets the power of rich media. So does Airpush (Abstract Ads are ridiculously awesome). Facebook is right there too when it comes to creating mobile ad experiences that people actually like to look at (their launch of Canvas is perfect example). This is a shrewd move on the part of AOL.