AOL Debuts Native Mobile Ad Unit

AOL is rolling out a native mobile ad unit that it claims will allow marketers to easily and cost-effectively run native advertising across mobile sites and apps. It will also allow publishers to take advantage of this form of advertising and increase mobile revenue.

The new ad unit is designed to engage mobile users and increase the install rate of an advertiser’s mobile or tablet apps, says AOL.

While the company is starting with app promotion at launch, its vision is to extend beyond apps and it’s in the process of designing units to accommodate brands that wish to do so, says Chad Gallagher, AOL’s director of mobile.

AOL’s announcement follows Twitter’s launch of mobile app-install ads just last week.

According to AOL’s figures, its native unit reaches 86 million users per month via AOL owned-and-operated mobile properties and apps like TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, DailyFinance, Engadget, AOL Mail, and Autoblog, as well as through third-party publishing partners.

The mobile unit integrates into the look and feel of these properties, which AOL says guarantees a “premium” environment from which consumers can download apps.

Native ads give publishers access to a new revenue source outside of traditional 320-by-50 banner ads and native ad revenue per mille (RPM) tends to be higher than that of display banners, AOL says.

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“We fundamentally believe that the square rectangle at the bottom of the smartphone is not the best way to engage people when they’re looking through content on a phone,” Gallagher says.

According to AOL, RPMs increased 61 percent for AOL’s DailyFinance after the site incorporated native advertising on mobile.

Gallagher says that increase is “because that post-click conversion rate is so high, which leads to marketers wanting to bid more on these units than classic display banners.”

And because of the overall shift from desktop to mobile, the ability for publishers to increase revenue in mobile is at an all-time high, he says.

In addition, since the native ads launched on some AOL properties four months ago, clients have yielded post-click conversion rates that are generally at least six times higher than those on clicks from a smartphone display banner, AOL says.

“Users are much more engaged in the actual units and after clicking have a much deeper level of engagement with whatever conversion we have in front,” Gallagher adds.

At launch, AOL has about 50 advertisers.