AOL Debuts A Self-Serve TV Ad Platform, Signs On Omnicom Group

DanAAOL rolled out a programmatic self-serve platform for TV buyers on Monday, and Omnicom Group is the first agency partner to test-drive it.

While some competing solutions only enable planning, AOL said its platform also handles execution and reporting. AOL thinks its developing device graph under Verizon gives it a competitive advantage in omnichannel media mix planning.

“We have access to a high volume of consumer transactions across desktop and mobile,” Dan Ackerman, SVP of programmatic TV at AOL.

Ackerman said that volume gives it a better view of de-duped reach and frequency than many competitors can offer. “It’s a good way to understand ad fatigue where [instead] of increasing your frequency, maybe you use different creative,” he said.

The self-serve programmatic TV tool can be used now for planning and purchasing media against new fall programming in the third quarter.

AOL is not naming any supply-side sources yet, though the company claims advertisers can access national broadcast network inventory, not merely MVPD or local-network inventory.

“We started to develop this a long time ago at and when we acquired PrecisionDemand, we were really focused on data activation, planning, targeting and attribution,” Ackerman said. “The core differentiator we bring here is converting person-level data: anonymized name and address, CRM, cookie and device-ID data into predictive segments for TV.”  

Omnicom saw the platform as a way to bring advances in data targeting and household level addressability to linear TV, said John Swift, CEO of North America investment at the holding company.

AOL uses Acxiom and Experian to onboard TV data segments. The two data marketing firms facilitate blind matches against supplier or advertiser data so AOL can avoid using personally identifiable information.

Advertisers can use either AOL’s data management platform (DMP) to manage first-party segments, or work with any third-party DMP of their choice.

AOL’s self-serve platform lets buyers set their campaign flight dates, spot lengths, budgets, targeting parameters and programming selections (e.g., pull back on networks where an advertiser already has an upfront sponsorship).

Then, through Acxiom’s safe haven technology (which facilitates a blind match based on a common identifier), AOL can enrich hashed IDs with behavioral or psychographic data, as well as set-top box data from two million homes through TV data platform FourthWall Media.

“The transaction between the buyer and seller can be guaranteed based on Nielsen demographics or non-guaranteed where the transaction currency is spot-based,” Ackerman said. “An advertiser can build custom segments based on its own first-party data and we can append Nielsen and custom Rentrak, Polk, Shopcom, MRI Fusion [and] Acxiom Personicx segments.”

It powers a bidirectional order-sync between the supplier’s traffic and billing system and STRATA or Mediaocean on the buy side, so programming data and avails remain updated.

AOL claims it offers a lot of additional analysis around the performance of a buy. In addition to its multi-touch attribution component Convertro, the company has a second-screen attribution tool called Webspike that factors in campaigns running on Google Analytics or Omniture (now Adobe Analytics).

Because Webspike is baked into AOL’s self-serve TV platform, the system could essentially confirm a spot time and then analyze a two-minute window to see how much visitation it drove to a site.

This would allow a buyer to A/B test a TV campaign and filter out, for example, any undue impact from search campaigns in an attribution model.

Although AOL has had a TV ad-buying module in market since 2014, that was largely a managed service.

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