Interactive marketing services firm Advertising.com, soon to be acquired by America Online, launched an automated affiliate network for publishers on Tuesday.
The network will be the first in a series of automated tools created to simplify the online advertising process, the company said. It will serve as a centralized platform allowing publishers to select offers from Advertising.com's advertiser partners and to track the most profitable placements. Advertising.com plans to roll out Web and email solutions via the same interface in the near future.
This is the product's official launch, but Advertising.com has been offering a beta version of the affiliate network to advertisers and publishers for some months now, according to Mollie Spilman, SVP of marketing for the company. Several hundred publishers, including the Excite network, are already on board, Spilman said.
In June, America Online agreed to acquire Advertising.com for $435 million. This launch means AOL will soon be in the affiliate business.
"This is a smart move for AOL," commented Declan Dunn, CEO of Dunn Direct Group, of Advertising.com's new affiliate network. "Lately, there's been a consolidation of affiliate programs and a recognition at the higher level that affiliate networks have value. For example, DoubleClick bought Performics in part to have affiliate marketing." (DoubleClick agreed to purchase Performics for a potential total of $65 million in May.)
"Advertising.com has always been a smart company on acquisition; AOL has always been a smart company on branding," Dunn said. Hence, he said, the combination is a good one. "The ad industry is consolidating, realizing that both branding dollars and acquisition dollars are part of the game. If AOL can recruit top companies using Advertising.com's network, it can bring in some deals and compete with (affiliate networks) Be Free and Commission Junction, which belong to ValueClick."
In June, America Online's agreement to acquire Advertising.com put a halt to the smaller company's IPO plans. That move is somewhat reminiscent of Yahoo's acquisition of Overture, in that it pairs an online publishing company with a marketing services firm. It allows AOL to deploy Advertising.com's technology across its network, as Yahoo has done with Overture. It will also allow AOL, like Yahoo, to effectively sell inventory on other publishers' sites.
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