Platform-A Goes Self-Serve

Ad network giant Platform-A is working on a self-serve ad buying system that will let marketers bid for ad placements on a CPM, CPC, or CPA basis.

Available in first-half 2009, the BidPlace platform will be Platform-A’s first move into auction-based ad buying, and execs hope it will satisfy the needs of some advertiser groups previously stymied by the the selling constraints of the Time Warner digital ad unit. Those advertisers may include both national franchises and businesses with budgets below Platform-A’s current minimum spend requirements.

“We’ll be able to attract other types of advertisers who…want the higher-level control and ability to do this themselves,” said Eric Bosco, SVP of operations and product management at Platform-A. Bosco declined to say what the company’s minimum spend constraints are, but did indicate smaller marketers might be drawn to the system. Another likely marketer category to use BidPlace will be “larger companies with robust analytics capabilities who say, ‘AdLearn [Platform-A’s optimization engine] is great but I’d be willing to test more things.'”

It will also help display ad giant compete better with the likes of AdSense and AdBrite, large networks that allow media buyers to slice and dice audiences and generally place customized buys without the assistance of a sales rep. Created last year, Platform-A brings AOL’s own properties together with other ad networks and technologies including those of behavioral ad firm Tacoda and Advertising.com. Inventory up for sale on the system will include those AOL-run properties along with those represented by Platform-A’s family of ad networks, which have an over 90 percent reach among U.S. Internet users.

BidPlace will eventually offer all the audience segmentation and targeting capabilities available through Platform-A today, including psychographic, demographic, geographic, and behavioral targeting. All those targeting options may not be available at launch, however. “Some of more esoteric targeting types might not make first cut,” said Bosco.

Marketers will also be able to obtain forecasts for anticipated impression volumes under their preferred price points and targeting parameters.

Bosco emphasized the platform won’t be mandatory for advertisers, and said its roll-out will not result in cuts to Platform-A’s sales force.

“Think of it as one more option,” he said. “To our existing advertisers and agency partners, we’re committed to doing business [however] they feel comfortable.”

Marketers will have greater transparency and more bidding options on AOL’s sites — and those of a handful of unnamed outside publishers — than they will on the morass of sites in the company’s other networks, including Advertising.com. On AOL-run properties, for instance, media buyers can bid for specific ad placements on a page. Such transparency won’t be available for network properties.

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