New AIM Services Bring New Ad Opportunities

AOL’s new social networking and VOIP features for its AIM service were rolled out this week, giving advertisers new opportunities to reach the instant messaging platform’s large base of users.

“We want to leverage the users that attach themselves to AIM as a brand, who give us space on their desktops for six hours a day,” Kerry Parkins, director of key audience product marketing at AOL, told ClickZ News. “When you attract the engagement and attention of users, good things can happen.”

AIM Pages and AIM Phoneline, built on top of the company’s Triton client, will each add inventory for advertisers to reach AIM’s 41 million users. Initially, the two services will serve banner ads that appear elsewhere on the AIM service, but both hold the promise of new ad units and opportunities in the future.

Launched this week in an early beta, AIM Pages will show the same banner ads that are sold throughout AIM. In the near future, AOL will launch branded profile pages for products, branded themes and sponsor-built modules. So far, five advertisers have signed on for these units, which will help marketers allow customers to express their affinity with their brands, Parkins said.

These advertising opportunities will be unveiled next month. Later this year, AOL will launch sponsored groups, which will provide another channel to reach customers with targeted messaging, she said.

AIM Pages lets users build personalized profile pages, similar to those on social networks like News Corp.’s MySpace, Yahoo 360, or MSN Spaces. The service lets users add pre-designed modules to the page to add AIM elements like contact information, pictures, or a “buddy gallery.” In addition AIM Pages has been opened up to allow users to build a module with content from anywhere on the Web.

AOL provides pre-built modules for things like Flickr photos, YouTube videos, or Amazon wish lists, and plans to add more in coming weeks. Users can also create a module with any kind of content. “Anything that can be displayed in a Web browser can be put into a module,” Parkins said.

AIM Phoneline will also give AOL new products to offer advertisers. The new VOIP service gives users a free, ad-supported incoming phone number, or allows them to pay for incoming and outgoing calls via a subscription-based premium service. When a user answers a call, checks voicemail, or looks at call logs, AIM banner ads will be shown on the interface.

“We’re turning phone calls into pageviews, with standard unobtrusive advertising,” Alex Quilici, VP of voice services at AOL, told ClickZ News. Later this year, AOL plans to incorporate click-to-call advertising with the service, allowing advertisers to connect directly with users over the AIM Phoneline service, he said.

The banner ads are placed in such a way that they will not interfere with using the service, similar to the ads on AOL’s AIM Mail service. For example, ads on the call alert notification do not appear until after a user has decided to take the incoming call or not, Quilici said.

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