When AOL Platforms global CEO Bob Lord started at the company 13 months ago, 3 percent of its ad revenue came from programmatic buys. It's now at 34 percent, with 45 percent more clients using its platform.
So, as merger rumors continue to swirl around AOL and Yahoo, Lord isn't surprised, given his company's success at data-driven targeting.
"We at AOL have been very, very consistent in our strategy about providing audiences and content from a creative standpoint and building a culture," Lord said. "People can make rumor about who we're going to get bought by, but it only validates that we have a good strategy in the market right now."
Lord believes that as more clients—including in the linear TV ad industry—move toward programmatic buying, AOL is going to become more important than ever. Already, its programmatic platforms provide multi-touch attribution across screens, thanks mainly to its purchase of marketing analytics company Convertro in May. Custom programming and deeper integrations are heading toward automation as well.
"CMOs are going to get comfortable with this predictive analytics simulation based on what they buy," Lord said. "One-to-one marketing is the absolute golden rule. We're not there yet, but middle-ground science data analytics can simulate what it can be, and that gets us beyond the click" measurement.
Forrester's Susan Bidel said that AOL Platform success in programmatic is exactly what companies need—and could be a compliment to Yahoo, which seems to be focusing on native integrations in its digital magazines and other editorial. It's not that either side has ignored the other strategy, but their skill sets seem to work with each other.
While Bidel believes in the power of premium content, how you identify and reach audiences and where and when you reach them is increasingly important. "They do so seem like a perfect combination whether they do go ahead and merge," she said.
Next up for AOL is further creative optimization so the ads served really appeal to the individual consumer. The company has tested simple things like changing background colors to fit a viewer’s likes or modifying it based on the weather in the area. Lord said preliminary results show a 17 to 18 percent increase in interaction.
"AOL is now known as a platform organization that provides platform solutions to brand advertisers and agencies. And we’re stitching together bold and brand new assets for the future," he said.