Giant AT&T Ad Network Appears Out of Nowhere

Ford is among the brands running cross-media campaigns through AT&T’s AdWorks network. Those who haven’t heard of AdWorks are not alone. The cross-platform online display, mobile, and interactive television ad network has flown under the radar while building up inventory to supplement AT&T’s large wireless subscriber base. Now, after rebranding in June, AdWorks has shown up on comScore’s top ad network list, outranking stalwarts like ValueClick, 24/7 Real Media, and other large networks.

According to comScore, AdWorks came in at number four in the measurement firm’s ad network list, by total unique visitors and reach, with 181.3 million unique visitors and around 84 percent reach of the total Internet audience in August. AdWorks follows Google, Yahoo, and AOL, the top three networks. Google’s network attracted over 201 million unique visitors grabbing 93 percent reach last month.

AdWorks sells display ads, SMS, mobile web and in-app ads, and spot TV and interactive television opportunities. Video is only available as online in-banner units. “Ford is running not only spot buys with us, but they have a dedicated interactive TV channel as well,” said Maria Mandel, VP marketing and media innovation at AdWorks. Ford has been running ads with the network for “several months,” she said.

The network includes owned and operated properties – including digital TV inventory from AT&T’s Uverse, along with third party inventory. For TV ads, AdWorks does set top box-level reporting, and is rolling out national and local ad insertion. According to Mandel, the network supplements its inventory with ad exchange inventory, and sells some of its inventory in exchanges.

The network currently enables cross-platform buys and reporting, but not optimization yet, said Mandel. Also on the agenda: expanding the inventory, and building out creative and measurement capabilities.

AdWorks has sales offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Detroit. And, to accommodate media buying traditionalists as well as more modern buyers, sales staff is both siloed and integrated. The company separates its online and mobile sellers from it television sellers, but also has a group who sells across all three platforms.

Mandel stressed AT&T’s ability to combine anonymized mobile subscriber data with the other data used to target across the network. “We are the only company that can access AT&T subscriber data,” she said.

A surprise to ad network sector watchers, AdWorks appeared for the first time ever as number four in the August comScore rankings. It hadn’t appeared before, explained Andrew Lipsman, VP industry analysis at comScore, because AT&T had not fulfilled some requirements necessary for the firm to gauge the network’s audience. Essentially, a network must make its presence known to comScore before being tracked.

“Our ad network reporting requires participation from the ad nets in identifying all of their partners, so unless they work with us on developing those definitions we do not report on an ad net,” he wrote in an email sent to ClickZ News on Tuesday.

Top Ad Networks, August 2011
Ad Network Unique Visitors (000)
Google Ad Network 201,812
Yahoo Network Plus 188,871
AOL Advertising 187,804
AT&T AdWorks 181,307
Source: comScore

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