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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

ONE by AOL: Simplifying digital ad complexity to improve creativity—and results

September 21, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Like the Jetson’s robot maid, Rosie, technology was supposed to make our lives easier. But we could use a little more Rosie and a little less complexity in the digital media and marketing industry as brands scramble to create content and advertising experiences that are optimized across an ever-expending proliferation of devices, screen-sizes, and formats. There are those, however, who believe that automation is an answer to some of this complexity: AOL, for one, continues to build more automation into its ONE by AOL platform in an effort to “allow the machines to do what the machines do best and allow the humans to do what they do best,” according to David Miller, the Company’s VP of Ad Product Management.

Marketers’ biggest concern, says Miller, is keeping their creative relevant and figuring out what is working (and what’s not). “We are trying to let the machines do that so marketers can focus on being more creative and strategic.”

To that end, AOL has expanded the company’s ONE by AOL open automation platform to allow marketers to simplify the creation of multi-variate premium cross-screen advertising. This means that marketers can create content once and—using AOL’s flexible HTML-based templating—easily deploy that content across mobile, video and desktop. While creative assets are core, the system can also incorporate many other elements such as product information, social feeds, SKU information, local retail locations, and any number of other things that brands want to get in front of consumers. “Historically, advertisers have to build five, 10, even 15 different combinations of assets for each different format—desktop, mobile, pre-roll—we want to drastically simplify that,” says Miller.

The ONE by AOL platform also connects with AOL’s audience platform, which incorporates first-party, third-party, and advertiser data. This allows marketers to target specific audiences with customized experiences. Perhaps even more importantly, ONE by AOL provides marketers with a way to clearly evaluate the performance of any given combination of assets against specific demographic segments. “We want to leverage all of the data to allow marketers to look at each individual combination of assets shown to a specific group and be able to compare the ROI of this combination aimed at this group to this other combination aimed at another demographic, then be able to easily change things up to improve results.”

This is achieved through a combination of technological integration and transparency. ONE by AOL provides insights that go beyond impressions and clicks to include insights on the impact of specific pieces of creative on ROI. The goal, says Miller, is to allow marketers to create increasingly relevant, useful advertising. “We need to see the convergence of the right brand experience with the appropriate consumer experience, which revolves around relevance and utility,” he says.

Miller points out that premium brands have long since moved away from “the big ‘click here’ button…the kind of bad ads that cause more ad blockers to be installed.” The rise of ad blocking, according to Miller, can be directly correlated to bad ads and poor consumer experiences.

Miller notes that, as an industry, we need to increase our focus on creating great experiences. “At AOL, we’re trying to figure out how to help move the industry forward overall and simplify life for our marketing partners so that they can focus on the next big cool thing.”

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