AOL is throwing a bash tonight in Washington, D.C. in the hopes of attracting digital politicos to its self-serve display ad platform. While political advertisers have bought display ads direct on AOL-owned Advertising.com for years, the new platform could help AOL better compete with Google – longtime darling of online political advertisers – in the online political display category. Indeed, a former member of Google’s political ad group recently joined AOL’s Politics & Issue Advocacy division.
“In case you haven’t heard, AOL’s back in DC and we’re all about politics,” states an invite for AOL’s Cocktail party, to be held tonight at the Sequoia Restaurant on K Street. The event promises attendees a chance to schmooze with writers from AOL’s Politics Daily site, as well as a “sneak peek” at AOL’s self-serve display ad platform, Ad Desk, which the invite goes on to describe as “designed with your needs in mind.”
Digital political consultants and AOL’s event promoters are touting tonight’s shindig as the company’s official return to the political space. In a Twitter post, Rena Shapiro, AOL’s recently-hired account director of Politics and Issue Advocacy, suggested the event signaled a “NEW @AOL.” Shapiro was part of Google’s Elections and Issue Advocacy group and served as an account manager for political advertisers there during the 2008 election cycle.
AOL’s Ad Desk platform, introduced in April, is in its early stages, but the company has allowed political ad buyers to test it. Andrew Bleeker, president of D.C.-based Bully Pulpit Interactive, an online ad and marketing agency dedicated to serving progressive and Democratic campaigns, said he’s tried Ad Desk and suggested to AOL ways it could make the platform better suited to political advertisers.
“The concept of having a self-serve method [for buying AOL properties and the Advertising.com network] is very attractive to me,” he said.
The Ad Desk is a bid-based marketplace, selling CPM and performance-based ads. Advertisers can target by site, category, geographic location down to the DMA level, demographic, and behavior. Retargeting, or what AOL calls lead-back targeting, is also available.
Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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