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When gas prices spike, for instance, auto makers could use the technology to rapidly advertise hybrids. When the stock market falls, an investment firm could use the system to serve ads promoting conservative investment options.
"Rather than relying on traditional planning paradigms, where we're hoping to take advantage of time frame or predictions in the market, we're actually reacting in real time and then we have creative set up to run against that," said Gregg Colvin, chief operating officer at UM, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
The idea is to do "real time marketing" on a larger scale with less effort.
The technology, which is being built by AOL's engineering team for use by UM's planning team, will sit on top of AOL's ad buying platforms. "It's a decisioning layer," said Rob Middleton, global agency director at AOL. "The goal is to really give them control and then we will enable the buying through our programmatic stack."
This is not the first attempt to trigger ads with real-time data. The Weather Company, for instance, sells ads that are served as the weather changes. And UM has experimented with similar planning tactics with three clients over the past year. But if the AOL technology works out, UM will get a more powerful software interface to plan such buys, with access to AOL's broad swath of inventory plus ad space elsewhere online.
After a period of exclusivity for UM, AOL will also shop the platform to other advertisers.
While the final list of triggers is still unfinished, UM said it plans to use sports scores, market indices, local gas prices and life events such as work anniversaries.
The data will come from a variety of sources, including AOL properties and other data partners.
Brown Forman, a UM client and the owner of brands such as Jack Daniels and Woodford reserve, might use data to pitch a celebratory drink to someone who recently landed a new job, Mr. Colvin said. Another application: suggest a bottle to celebrate a sports team's victory.
The concept of digital "real time marketing" became a craze after Oreo's quick tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, but it has largely revolved around trying to be clever on social media. While AOL and UM's idea is the same -- trying to insert brand messages into the moment -- the paid approach has the potential to enable advertisers to reach further.
"It's difficult today to do at scale," said Mr. Middleton of real time marketing on social networks. "We're trying to make this more expansive. Make it an advertising approach, not a one-off event-driven campaign."