AOL Moves Its Research Unit to Advertising Division

AOL has moved its audience research team to its advertising division. The move signals recognition by the company that what advertisers and agencies want most is data-driven insight into how and where to best reach their target markets.

“This is part of our core focus,” said SVP Global Sales Development Erin Clift. “At the heart and soul of that is very much research, data, and insights.”

The Adlytics unit was part of AOL’s business intelligence division until AOL CEO Tim Armstrong came on board in March. The business intelligence division conducts data analysis that aids AOL’s business decision-making, and in the past the company chose to house all of its data research staff under that roof.

Now, the Adlytics team will branch off to become part of the ad division, which includes the network and ad sales for AOL-owned properties.

“It’s a logical evolution of the business based on where we were going,” said Clift.

Adlytics staffers are based in New York and Mountain View, CA. AOL intends to grow the division through additional hires, according to Clift.

The division develops reports on audience behavior, brand impact, and other insights for proprietary use by advertiser clients and their agencies, as well as for public dissemination. The company currently partners with Nielsen Homescan to help CPG brands determine cross-media ROI. In 2010, said Clift, the division will scale such research across other industries in addition to CPG.

The group recently published a report focused on teen purchase behavior and media consumption, and has worked with Universal McCann to conduct smartphone media consumption research. AOL is currently in discussions with agency partners to determine how they want data presented and in what formats, added Clift.

AOL “generally will include some type of a research component,” during the proposal stage, explained Clift. For instance, the firm might promise to provide advertisers with data about consumer reactions to particular ad formats, behavior of certain audience segments, how the target audience responds to ad messages, or general consumer trends.

Ultimately, that information is used to “help them learn more about those segments not only before, but during campaigns.”

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