For the past year, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has emphasized the company's position as a programmatic player, discussing the importance of its "tech stack" and building up its year-old demand-side platform AdLearn. The company hopes to complete the circle around its automated ad services with the launch of its long-promised supply side platform, dubbed simply Marketplace. Read the release.
More than the fact that AOL is formally competing against the likes of PubMatic, The Rubicon Project and Google's AdMeld, the news signifies new importance for the company's ADTECH ad serving unit, which it acquired in May 2007 and folded into Advertising.com. In February, AOL rebranded the Ad.com Group, which housed a variety of ad technology offerings, as AOL Networks. The move was an attempt to add definition and simplicity to its numerous products and projects.
"Everything we've been doing the past few months at AOL Networks is meant to give substance to the hype around programmatic tools for buyers and sellers," said Allie Kline, AOL Networks' CMO in an interview. "We're more prepared to automate the things that can be automated."
AOL's timing in producing an SSP may seem late, coming two years after Google acquired AdMeld and as potential rivals like PubMatic solidify their ties to major publishers like Hearst. Rubicon meanwhile has expanded into a more general exchange operator, sensing the SSP tag has lost its value somewhat.
But as a greater number of publishers appear ready to forge ahead in programmatic, AOL's timing may be good enough. The company's third party network revenues have surged the past few months. And as a publisher itself, it has appeal.
In terms of ADTECH, which was based in Germany at the time AOL bought it and continues to have a considerable European presence, the benefit of the SSP is clear. It shows the commitment to a fairly well known brand and it shows how AOL is moving quickly to make the most out of its existing properties, rather than turn to yet another acquisition and difficult integration.
Dave Jacobs, who oversees AOL's publisher-facing solutions and tech platforms, said the company took a long look at the core services within ADTECH, and decided it made the most sense to extend an SSP from its existing capabilities. It's been beta testing the SSP functions for a few months with 50 publishers who have a combined 400 sites, he noted.
"We have a tremendous amount of experience working with publishers. We've seen a lot of evolution," Jacobs told AdExchanger. AOL is a customer of ADTECH as well, but it's never been about serving AOL solely. The introduction of the SSP will help publishers better understand what we have to offer."