AOL is launching a series of premium ad formats for mobile devices and tablets today, extending its Pictela platform across multiple screens. The technology enables brands to build and tailor cross-platform campaigns in real-time.
Advertisers can incorporate five applications in mobile ads running on the technology, including Facebook, Twitter, a photo gallery, video gallery, and content feed. Icons in the ads associated with the apps will open a larger window displaying content without leaving the ad. Pictela desktop ads can feature 25 different apps.
AOL is running house ads for Moviefone based on the new mobile ad format (320x50), and plans to sell the new premium formats for mobile devices following the commercial launch.
Since online ad vet Tim Armstrong took the helm, AOL has banked on premium rich media ad formats to boost revenues from brand advertisers. During the firm's Q1 2012 earnings call, the CEO said use of its large Project Devil rich media ad unit grew 80 percent year-over-year and CPMs rose. However, AOL continues to struggle in its mission to dominate the U.S. display ad market. The company's domestic display revenues fell1 percent year-over-year to $119 million.
Now that it's moving beyond the desktop browser to smartphones and tablets, AOL hopes more brands increase spend on the smaller screens. Pictela's technology has powered more than 700 campaigns over the last year, according to AOL.
AOL acquired Pictela in late 2010 to integrate the company's content management system for branded content into its ad business.
Major brands and marketers want to have an integrated approach to media, but far too often the display, mobile and tablet teams are not integrated. "The brand story gets disjointed in the process and it's just hard to execute," noted Greg Rogers, SVP of premium formats at AOL and CEO of Pictela. "The beauty of this is that it's like an ad publishing platform," he said. "You can go into the platform, swap out content, swap out ads and the content will change in real time."
However, some are skeptical that simply repurposing ad creative for different screen sizes is the right approach. "New ad formats must fit the context the ad is being delivered in, and that requires a new direction or fundamental strategic change," said Adam Broitman, chief creative strategist at Something Massive.
Nonetheless, as consumers increasingly switch between media choices and formats, multiscreen ad support becomes more critical, particularly for consumer brands.
"The tablet has changed all the rules and confirmed what we all know. We multitask, using the phone and now the tablet to supplement and potentially compete with our TV viewing," said Peggy Anne Salz, founder and chief analyst at mobile research firm MobileGroove.
"This shift in behavior creates a new requirement for advertising as well as content that flows across all screens," she added. "The winners will be the ones that understand and facilitate not only the flow, but the hand-off between the screens."
In the future, AOL expects to develop additional Pictela ad formats and to expand to more screens such as IPTV and digital out-of-home.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.
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