Industry Reacts to AOL, Publicis Groupe’s Programmatic Partnership

The growing demand for personalized, “real-time marketing” (think: the doings of Oreo and its digital agency 360i that resulted in “Dunk in the Dark” during the Super Bowl), is one of the forces underpinning the push toward unifying the “human” and “technological” elements of the programmatic equation.

AOL’s earlier announcement of a new strategic partnership with ad-holding company Publicis Groupe, and the subsequent hiring of Bob Lord, CEO of Publicis’ Digital Technologies division and global CEO of agency Razorfish (See AdExchanger story), to head up AOL Networks as CEO, offers further evidence.

As Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst for research advisory Altimeter Group pointed out, “I think AOL is very interested in (real-time marketing) in terms of how they’re talking about ‘live ads,’ but the question is, ‘How do you do that?’ Creating new products and campaigns in real-time – that can scale – is really quite a challenge.”

Regarding AOL’s move to bring on Lord from the agency/tech side and its unveiling a roadmap for Publicis AOL Live, an end-to-end solution for marketers that goes by “PAL,” (see press release) Lieb reasons that this could bode well for the publisher and future ad buys. “I think that bringing in somebody with the skillsets that are not just technical, but who has deep advertising relationships (is a good thing)… I think Lord is going to have something to do with helping resuscitate something that has, perhaps, become too automated or commoditized,” she said.

One of the ways AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong can successfully deliver on his quasi-declaration that the future of advertising is programmatic is by “finding the right balance of technology and the human connection,” Lieb added. “Programmatic advertising isn’t enough without more engagement and more brand goodness.”

As reported by AdExchanger, AOL and Publicis’ strategic alliance is on a timed setting to last exclusively for six months, upon which it will then be opened up to other brands and agencies interested in Live Advertising. Publicis and AOL first ran live advertising initiatives through AOL platforms like Mapquest, The Huffington Post and TechCrunch earlier this year.

Other agency holding companies had somewhat of a “wait-and-see” sentiment about the AOL/Publicis partnership and its potential impact on their standing relationships and work with the media company.

“We’re still going to buy what we buy and I don’t think its going to make our spend go up or down, but it certainly (has the potential) to change the conversation,” said Rob Griffin, EVP & global director of product development for Havas Media. “To me, the opportunity is purely creative and just busting out advertising that’s much more like content that’s trending in real-time based on what’s going on and you’ve got this massive degree of relevancy.”

However, Griffin noted that he thinks the full story has yet to be told. He added, “There’s no discussion in that deal of – are they using a Cognitive Match… or somebody with a technology platform, like a Moontoast, who can swap that content in and out without re-trafficking. There’s got to be some other component.”

With PAL, AOL is “simply making a bet that building a platform with live marketing will appeal to their clients,” said Steve Katelman, EVP, global strategic partnerships, digital at Omnicom Media Group. “It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but there is no exclusive with AOL on this idea. If we had a client that wanted to incorporate ‘Live’ with AOL, TechCrunch, HuffPo, etc. we could tomorrow. And any platform unique to a holding company would be open to all in six months or so.”

Of the alliance’s impact on the agency and services model, Katelman said Omnicom has been doing vendor deals for a long time. As he summed it up, “It wouldn’t make sense for AOL to upset the others – there are too many alternate media choices.”


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