When ad technology company PointRoll agreed to become an AOL “preferred portal partner” in March, the timing was auspicious. Only a month earlier, it had gotten into a ruckus with Yahoo over its rich media ads being pulled from the portal.
The to-do highlighted a more significant development for PointRoll — by June Yahoo plans to stop covering fees for third-party rich media placements, offering its own rich media software instead as a free extra for advertisers. In effect, Yahoo itself will become the preferred provider.
To date, PointRoll has supplied the bulk of rich media ads on Yahoo. The company won’t disclose what proportion of its revenues come from Yahoo, but losing any business on the planet’s most trafficked site won’t likely benefit the bottom line. Enter AOL. The new deal gives AOL a first look at new ad products from PointRoll and access to dedicated teams of its rich media experts.
The first ad placement emerging from the relationship, called Netstream, is user-initiated video within a 200 x 250 banner unit. In the works is another unit, dubbed Tickerboy, developed as an alternative to pre-roll ads. It sits at the bottom of a media player while video runs and expands to fill the screen when rolled over with a mouse. A viewer can opt to close the ad after it starts playing.
“This model makes much more sense for the Web,” says Andy Ellenthal, senior vice president for global sales at PointRoll, of Tickerboy. “Rather than forcing behavior, it invites users to take action.” Other companies such as ScanScout and VideoEgg are also exploring less intrusive alternatives to pre-roll.
Ellenthal says PointRoll, which holds 60 percent of rich media market share, won’t suffer from a reduced relationship with Yahoo. “This [AOL] agreement is two times more valuable than anything we ever did with Yahoo,” he explains. While the companies have collaborated before under standard ad-serving agreements, the new deal gives AOL exclusive use of new PointRoll ad formats for a limited period.
Kathleen Kayse, executive vice president of sales and partnership alliances at AOL, also expects the deal to lead to increased business with PointRoll. “I don’t think we as an industry agree that pre-roll is the only solution,” she says. “It’s up to us to find the right solutions as marketers shift dollars from broadcast to the Web.”