Advertising Technology

AOL Launches Pictela Enterprise, Self Serve Ad Platform for Agencies

Today AOL announced the launch of Pictela Enterprise, a self serve version of the software that powers the company’s Project Devil ad units. We spoke with Greg Rogers, CEO of Pictela, about the launch of the platform.

The Makegood: What does Pictela Enterprise mean for marketers and agencies?

GR: In short, it means that what we call “Premium Format” advertising can be scaled across the Web.  A Premium Format is an ad unit that follows a particular style guide in displaying deep layers of brand content.  The IAB Portrait is one such example.  It has a clean lay-out, is optimized for engagement, and looks beautiful every single time. The Pictela platform is a content management system that is built to produce Premium Format ads across multiple IAB sizes, in a highly scaled fashion.

Until now, AOL has been using the Pictela platform to run IAB Portrait campaigns across its properties. In fact, 500 such campaigns have run over the last 12 months. During that time, we were kicking the tires on the platform, using AOL as our Alpha client, smoothing the entire work-flow experience and constantly adding to its functionality.

With the IAB’s announcement yesterday that the Rising Star ad units (including Portrait and Pushdown, both supported in the Pictela platform) were now IAB standard units, we decided it was the right time to release Pictela as a self-service platform for agencies.  We have named it Pictela EnterpriseTM in beta.

The Makegood: Who will be the first clients on the platform and how will it be priced?

GR: We are pleased to announce that Digitas and Mindshare have signed up to be launch partners in this Beta phase.  They both already have many clients who deploy Premium Formats across AOL, and with access to this platform, these agencies and their creative partners can produce and manage their own Pictela units and serve them across the Web.  Like most ad serving technologies, Pictela Enterprise will be charged on a CPM impression basis.

The Makegood: Does the platform serve ads only on AOL or can they run elsewhere? Will they also work on mobile devices?

GR: Through Pictela Enterprise, our clients can serve outside of AOL and  Pictela is certified to serve standard IAB sizes on most major online publishers.  In terms of mobile, AOL was recognized by the IAB in the Mobile Rising Stars 2012 “Push” category.  Over the next couple of months we will help the IAB craft final specifications for the “Push” Mobile Rising Star unit and will support it in our platform.

The Makegood: What do you say to creative agencies that might be concerned that the platform, which removes much of the drudgery associated with creating banner ads, will reduce their billable hours?

GR: To the contrary, we believe that Pictela Enterprise will create an enhanced revenue stream for creative agencies by replacing production drudgery with higher value services.  At present, the Pictela platform supports 22 standard content apps (e.g. video carousel, product showcase, etc).  Creative agencies can create custom apps suited to the campaign needs of their client and upload them into the platform for use.  At the same time, because Pictela is a content management system, the agency can manage the content experience of its client’s ads across the Web in real time, updating and optimizing content and applications.  It’s a win-win.

The Makegood: AOL is working with Moat, the brand advertising analytics platform, to demonstrate efficacy of the Portrait units. What has the research shown thus far?

GR: We recently conducted research with Moat that compared user engagement across three different versions of the same brand ad:  the Pictela Portrait format vs. custom rich media vs. standard animated Flash (all 300×1050 in size).  The results show that the Pictela-supported Portrait performed 12% better than the custom ad and 72% better than the animated Flash version.  The 12% difference does not sound like much, but there’s been a perception in the marketplace that the only way to build a highly engaging ad unit is through custom rich media executions.  This research is proving that scalable ad products like Premium Formats can be just as effective.

The Makegood: Thanks, Greg.