AOL Primes An Alternative To Standard Pre-Roll

spencerPublishers like Bloomberg and The Washington Post have raced to roll out non-intrusive ad formats priced on attention and engagement metrics. The IAB’s efforts to curb disruptive ad experiences also reinvigorated the dialogue.

Verizon-owned AOL is the latest to join the conversation. On Thursday, it dished up several new ad formats designed around consumer engagement – not just CPMs.

The first, dubbed Player Up, hopes to rewrite traditional pre-roll video metrics, which are typically transacted on a 15- or 30-second basis. Instead, Player Up renders the video after a branded 3-to-7-second intro.

And rather than reverting to a format like autoplay to increase viewability, Player Up enables more interactions within the player to encourage better view-through rates, such as a “shop now” button, in its client eBay’s case.

A publisher can also swap in a brand advertiser’s logo in the lower right-hand corner of the video or surface an advertiser’s logo when the user hits pause, in order to subtly augment messaging.

Although advertisers still view completions as a key video metric and publishers will probably always price them as such, “we tried to take a consumer-first approach with these formats,” said Spencer Sloe, VP of advertising product and strategy for AOL Content and Brands. “We still have standard video metrics, but we’ll also introduce other measures like brand exposure, which an advertiser can ultimately determine the value of over time.”

AOL’s also rolling out units called Data Perks, which are lead-gen ads served to parent Verizon’s 140 million wireless subscribers. 

Data Perks ads supplement the data plans of wireless subscribers when they interact with an ad or perform certain actions, such as downloading an advertiser’s app.

In a Data Perks test pilot in September, advertiser Pepcid AC ran a campaign wherein consumers would receive coupons and credit for their wireless Verizon subscriber data plans in return for providing their email addresses to the advertiser.

“When we began this effort initially, we realized a lot of what we were doing was about taking things from the consumer without giving anything in return, whether that meant time or real estate or data, so we wanted to try to create a deeper level of engagement where there was a value exchange,” Sloe said.

Right now, both the video and lead-gen ads are direct-sold, reserved offerings, because AOL sees them as less of a “scale and audience” play than high-touch or experimental – at least for now.

“Eventually, they’ll be programmatic, but we want to make sure the product is right and works right now,” Sloe said. “With Data Perks, the goal was to do a test around email offers and coupons coupled with a Verizon data plan.”

The launch of Data Perks points to more cross-pollination between the carrier and its digital platforms.

AOL/Verizon first foreshadowed its combined data strategy in the fall amid new FCC online privacy requirements – namely, that ISPs obtain affirmative opt-in consent before using consumers’ personal information.

Because email addresses, which Data Perks harnesses, are considered “nonsensitive” information by the FCC, they are fair game for data activation and sharing based on the traditional, interest-based opt-out process.

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