AOL Appeals to Advertisers with 9.0 Launch

AOL may be getting dropped from the corporate name, but the online division of the world's biggest media company is making headway in terms of the advertising community's acceptance of its new direction.

On Tuesday night, AOL hosted an event in New York to launch the new version of its software - AOL 9.0 Optimized - and to introduce advertisers to the new features of the service, hoping they would look further than the company's intimidating reputation and give it a second chance.

According to many attendees, many of whom likened the event to a major cable network upfront presentation, the launch made a very good impression. "Going there, we expected it to be typical AOL propaganda, but they put on an engaging presentation. The kind of which we previously have not seen in the interactive space," said Jes Santoro, VP-director of integrated media, at EarthQuake Media. "9.0 is a pretty impressive offering. It's very robust. Very content-focused. And very advertiser-focused."

Santoro said it comes as a breath of fresh air from AOL, whose previous versions focused more on the user experience than the advertiser experience."

He said they also announced that AOL would be 99% rich media compliant by year-end and 100% IAB compliant by the end of the month.

"The customization is really new."

He said it was much easier now to adapt advertising created for other media - such as movie trailers and print ads - to AOL's platform.

As an example of a key improvement, he cited the Latino area, which is now completely in Spanish, including AOL's trademark "you've got mail."

"This is very important for a client like HBO Latino. Whereas we wouldn't have considered AOL before, now we will," said Santoro, who buys online media for HBO.

Joe Mandese contributed to this report.

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