AOL Unwraps Its DSP, Hints at SSP and RTB Platform in Works

Product to exit beta by end of Q2

AOL has unveiled its latest puzzle piece in completing the LUMAscape bingo game. The company has developed a demand-side platform that AOL’s chief revenue officer Ned Brody told Adweek is the firm’s “entry into programmatic buying.”

“What we’re really trying to do is trying to be a single company that goes all the way from publishers to advertisers,” said Brody. Last month AOL debuted Pictela Enterprise, a self-serve platform for the creation of scalable premium ads. The AdLearn Open Platform won’t leave beta until the end of the second quarter, but advertisers and agencies can request access during the closed period.

On the platform media planners can create, optimize and analyze display campaigns that run across AOL owned-and-operated properties and inventory, which is pooled from more than 4,500 U.S. publishers. Clients will also be able to access the largest market of real-time biddable inventory available through all major RTB exchanges, the company said. Accuen, IPG’s Mediabrands Audience Platform and iProspect have signed on as beta partners.

Brody said AOL internally runs about 3 billion RTB auctions per day through “We’ve always been an internal RTB, and now this is opening up a new demand source that bids in on the same level playing field,” he said. “So it doesn’t change anything for []; it just adds a large number of new users who bid in exactly the same way, just through a different interface.”

The AdLearn Open platform grows from the AdLearn optimization technology that has served as’s backbone. AOL has invested more than $100 million in AdLearn over the past 10 years, Brody said.

At AOL’s New York offices, Brody and AOL’s vp of platform solutions Doug Boccia offered Adweek a tour of the new platform’s interface, whose appearance resembles WordPress’s tiled content management system. In addition to uploading their creative, buyers can upload their own data to supplement the provided audience targeting data from companies including Experian and AOL, whose inventory is culled from its more than 105 million monthly unique vistors; buyers can target consumers’ geolocations down to the ZIP code or DMA level. Buyers can limit where an ad would run by selecting a preconfigured inventory source list, such as select News or Entertainment publishers, or by uploading a buyer’s inventory source whitelist or blacklist, the latter option being made available over the next couple weeks. Buyers who pay vendor fees for third-party capabilities, such as ensuring an ad runs on a brand-safe page, can factor in those fees through the AdLearn Open Platform for a fuller campaign cost estimate.

The platform does not estimate, based on a campaign’s parameters, what share of the campaign’s eligible target may be reached, but Boccia said AOL has a “pipeline of features” in the works for this year related to inventory and data management.

The AdLearn Open Platform is the first of three product launches this year for its Group, which launched last March, he said. At launch the group lacked three offerings: a demand-side platform, a supply-side platform and a real-time bidding platform, said Brody. Fast-forward a year later, “We launched a DSP. We said it was one of three product launches we are releasing,” he said, declining to go into detail about AOL’s plans to launch an SSP and real-time bidder.

Brody said the AOL and inventory offered through the AdLearn Open Platform differs from that which is provided on Yahoo’s Right Media Exchange (RMX) because RMX buyers can’t buy the AOL or inventory specifically. Instead buyers have to purchase inventory from a pool of at least three sources, he said.

That may be good news for advertisers and agencies seeking new ways to access the AOL and inventory, but DSPs may withhold from the hoopla. Going a step further than RMX—which began in January requiring that DSPs only be able to access inventory through a client who has a seat on the exchange—AOL has cut off DSPs’ access to the AdLearn Open Platform entirely.

“This is not a long-tail advertiser solution … This is a complex, powerful tool to use for very large advertisers who want to run lots and lots of campaigns and lots of money through [the Group],” said Brody.

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