In a bid to provide additional value for advertisers purchasing display campaigns, AOL has rolled out a new ad unit on its home page to allow brands to highlight philanthropic causes they might be involved with.
Brands buying a home page campaign with the portal will have the opportunity to make use of the unit – which is displayed under the main home page ad placement – but are not required to do so. AOL will fill the unit with causes from the Ad Council or Network For Good if no advertiser causes are filling it.
“We see this unit as added value for our homepage campaign advertisers,” Christa Zambardino, a sales director at AOL told ClickZ.
Toyota was the first brand to make use of the cause unit last week – in conjunction with a home page takeover – to promote its TogetherGreen initiative, through which it is funding projects in partnership with conservation group Audubon. Today the unit is displaying an ad appealing for donations to HelpAge USA, via Network For Good.
“It’s an evergreen placement, and we plan to promote a different cause every day of the year,” said Blair Cobb, senior manager of cause marketing at AOL. The company will be entirely agnostic, allowing advertisers to dictate which causes they promote. “It’s a vehicle for our advertising partners to say what it is they care about,” Cobb said.
AOL has been experimenting with its ad offerings of late, in attempts to increase the value of inventory on its properties for advertisers. The company has scaled back the volume of ads published on its pages, but also trialed new ad formats such as its Project Devil unit. The product allows advertisers to pull a range of multimedia and social content into a single giant ad unit, through a module-based platform.
The company recently reported its display ad revenue continued to drop in the third quarter of the year, but CEO Tim Armstrong said he expected “signs of a turnaround” for the company in 2011. Overall, revenue fell 27 percent in the third quarter versus the same quarter last year.