Fast Chat: Group CEO Ned Brody

AOL’s ad tech boss looks ahead to 2013

AOL’s Group has had a banner year, with the portal’s ad tech arm bolstering its advertising business. Adweek spoke with the group's CEO Ned Brody last week about what the rest of 2012 holds (hint: he’s not done announcing new ad tech products) and how he’s looking at 2013, particularly the rise of RTB up the inventory hierarchy.

Adweek: Looking ahead to 2013, it seems like it will be a big year for programmatic buying. Will it start to impact premium online selling?

There’s a lot of questions in the industry around “Does programmatic lend itself to premium or not?” We have a very, very strong point-of-view about this, which is it absolutely can lend itself to premium but you need a combined project vision to do it. I use the metaphor of Project Devil, where we have rolled out a single premium format out of display…where we want to run over as many sites as can take it. Because we owned [ad serving company] Adtech, we were able to demonstrate the value of that unit. It gets adopted by IAB as a Rising Star, becomes the Portrait standard, and now pretty much every ad server adopted a portrait model.

Earlier this month Federated Media cut off the arm of its direct sales team that focused on standardized ads. As more buying goes the programmatic route, what do you see as the role for direct sales?

I think the assumption in the industry is that when you sell a platform as opposed to a campaign, you sell it and then you [step back]. The reality is that doesn’t happen. What you end up doing is you sell a platform into a client or agency trading desk, and then you still need a direct sales force to actually work with those guys. 

When we spoke in March, you hinted that AOL is working on building an supply-side selling platform (SSP). Where does that stand?

It’s November 19. We’ve still got five weeks left to go [in the year]. I think you will see some announcements before the end of the year.

What would an SSP mean for AOL?

I think there are traditional roles for SSPs in helping drive advertising yield. I think that is the minimum of what we would want to be bringing to our publishers. I think we have additional expertise that we have been able to glean from a major publisher [read: AOL] that could be incorporated into SSP platforms in the future.

Adobe recently rolled out a video platform that aims to enable targeting video ad-buying. But the company says video isn't ready for RTB just yet. What do you make of that?

I’d ask Scott Ferber from Videology whether he thinks video targeting is a long way off. I’d ask Adap.TV. There are plenty of players in the programmatic video space already. So I don’t think it’s too early.The targeting that exists throughout the display world is beginning to exist in the video world. 

As Native Ads gain in popularity, are IAB standard ad units becoming just long-tail placements?

I wouldn’t think they’re going to be more long-tail placements. I think the publishers are going to develop formats that best highlight the inventory that they have. This is obviously all an evolution. Just as programmatic really began with performance and is moving to brand—you can see the comments from people like Kellogg’s and Ford that are pretty public around programmatic as perfect opportunity for premium—you’re going to see those things evolve.