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AOL Touts Programmatic Advances and Partnerships at Upfront Event

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AOL's second Programmatic Upfront, held yesterday in New York City, felt markedly different from the first, a sign of the progress the company has made this year. While the debut event had a pep rally feel, urging all involved to get on the programmatic train, this year's focused on concrete steps AOL has taken, industry growth, and high-level partnerships.

"Customers are changing the way decision processes are happening," said Tim Armstrong, AOL's chairman and CEO, to a small group of investors and reporters before the upfront. In the future, upfronts will be more and more about technology partnerships, he added.

To spur programmatic ad buying (where ad purchasing is automated based on buyer criteria), AOL has launched a data management platform (DMP) to the programmatic ecosystem in first announced in March, called One. The DMP adds a data services layer that gives buyers a clean dashboard view where they can see unified analytics and view planning recommendations.

The dashboard is updated daily, said Seth Demsey, CTO for AOL Platforms, explaining One. Demsey stressed that open data is critical to the platform's future, while acknowledging that AOL hasn't always been synonymous with openness.

"Openness is our way of ensuring our long-term success in this market," Demsey said. One turns big data into smart data, and smart data into results, he added. IPG MediaBrands and Havas signed on as charter partners to the One platform.

To help buyers match their targeted demographics to program viewerships, and to extend programmatic buying to linear television, AOL introduced a proprietary metric called the tRatio. Rather than focusing on one demographic, the tRatio looks at hundreds of attributes to find matches between target audiences and viewing audiences.

Currently, 85 percent of impressions on TV reach 40 percent of the desired target audience, said Dan Ackerman, head of programmatic TV for AOL Platforms. The tRatio metric looks at deep attributes and does it at scale, he said. "it's happening now. This isn't aspirational; this isn't 2020."

Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman and CEO; Seth Demsey, AOL Platforms CTO; Dan Ackerman, AOL Platforms head of programmatic TV; and Bob Lord, AOL Platforms global CEO; at the 2014 AOL Programmatic Upfront.

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