AOL to Launch Ad Platform BidPlace in 2009

AOL is the latest Web media giant to get into the ad exchange business. The company’s ad network-centric division Platform-A announced on Sept. 23 the launch of BidPlace, a new open platform where any advertiser can bid on and purchase inventory across the group’s vast network of Web sites.

BidPlace, which will debut in early 2009, has been designed to be a self-serve marketplace where brands large and small can purchase ad inventory in a variety of ways, including on a CPM or cost-per-acquistion basis. Like other exchanges, advertisers can manage inventory, forecast pricing and changes bids frequently, all in real time. The differentiating benefit, say AOL officials, is that Platform-A offers mass scale, reaching over 90 percent of the Internet–though much of its inventory is of the non-premium, or remnant variety.

With the launch, AOL follows the lead of rivals Yahoo (which purchased the exchange company Right Media last year), Microsoft (which also purchased AdECN last year) and Google, which aquired an ad exhange as part of its deal for DoubleClick in 2006. In addition, several independent ad exchanges have sprung up in recent years, promising that the combination of targeting technology and an open selling auction approach will deliver better yield for publishers stuck with excess inventory.

Of course, ad networks like Platform-A offer a similar promise. But exchanges like BidPlace offer more transparency than most networks, which may please wary brand advertisers.