Commentary

AOL Execs Go All In On Mobile, Look To Data For The Right Signals

AOL’s NewFront was less of a dog-and-pony show and more of a free-wheeling outdoor carnival, where the company left attendees to sample and experience copious amounts of video programming, food and drink.

AOL’s message—a heavy focus on video, mobile and data, along with a doubling down on original video programming and live streams—was echoed by two executives working to monetize all that programming, understand what’s resonating with consumers and make it as easy as possible for consumers to access it anywhere.

“We’re taking all the combined assets we have to reach all consumers across all screens,” said Alia Lamborghini, SVP, product sales and strategy, AOL. The question is: “How do we make sure that we get the messaging in front of consumers in a seamless way across devices?” she said.

“We’re trying to help brands move into mobile by using data and targeting to reach their audiences,” Lamborghini said. “I’m thinking about how we can provide smart programmatic buying, while also including beautiful ad units and good content.” She called it a “programmatic rainbow” that will be tricky to deliver: “If you go all the way programmatic, you end up with wallpaper. If you don’t have any programmatic inventory, you don’t have efficiency.”

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Marta Martinez, SVP, AOL Advertising, told RTBlog that since last year, when AOL announced its partnership with NBC Universal at the NewFronts, it’s expanded to 20 partners. “We are an open ecosystem, the anti-walled garden, and we realize that content consumption is not a linear experience,” Martinez noted.

What’s changed since Verizon came aboard? A lot. “The order of magnitude of what we can do has accelerated.” She described the AOL/Verizon relationship as a Disney/Pixar model. With Verizon, she said, AOL gets the Go90 mobile video network and tons of partnerships like, for example, with the NFL.

Martinez said that AOL believes fervently that the future of the Internet will unfold on mobile devices, be powered by data and happen on open ecosystems. The company is in beta-test mode with several brand marketers that she declined to name. The test is using Verizon mobile data to help the marketers understand the value of the clickstream data on the mobile device.

“We’re trying to understand whether someone interacts with video in the morning on mobile, but not at night, and what that means," Martinez said. "And what is the data that matters? Are consumers watching three shows at a time on mobile, at the same time of day?” It’s a matter of understanding what the data can tell advertisers and which data is most meaningful.

Martinez also said she’s focusing on issues including “how do we bring content and programmatic together to do data-driven decisioning? How do we uncover the right data sets?  How do you take the intimate experience between a consumer and a brand and scale it using the right data signals?”

While the pendulum has swung toward programmatic, Martinez maintains it’s just a tactic, a way of executing media. But it must be tied to the right messaging.

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