Key Verizon Data Becomes Available to AOL Advertisers, Slowly

AOL Tests the Use of Precision Market Insights Data for Select Ad Clients

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Seth Demsey, AOL Platforms chief technology officer
Seth Demsey, AOL Platforms chief technology officer Credit: AOL

Verizon and AOL are continuing to tick off boxes on the list of data sets to integrate since the telco giant acquired the digital company almost a year ago.

The latest data set to become accessible for AOL advertisers is a significant one: Precision Market Insights.

PMI, a division that Verizon has introduced gradually over the past few years, uses location data generated by Verizon Wireless-enabled devices to determine demographic and other information about people in certain locations and connect it to other places those people visited. The end result is anonymized data showing, for instance, which percentage of an audience segment who attended a basketball game then visited a sponsor's burger joint at a particular time on a given day afterwards.

The addition of the PMI data to AOL's ad targeting, optimization and measurement system meets the expectations of some observers when Verizon bought AOL in May 2015. Verizon could use AOL's ad sales operation, they said, to help make a vibrant revenue stream from what would otherwise be leftover data exhaust. But it's just one of many such efforts.

"If you saw my little data integration tracker, it's not one line of data integrations, it's 37 lines of different data integrations," said AOL Platforms Chief Technology Officer Seth Demsey, who is closely involved with planning and implementing the blending of the companies' data.

The PMI data is now available in a closed beta to select AOL advertiser clients. The idea is that the information about segments of consumers will enhance the many layers of data AOL already uses for advertisers. PMI remains a distinct division within Verizon.

The AOL Platforms team is also ingesting the PMI data into its existing algorithms in the hopes of refining how ad campaigns are optimized and measured for advertisers, said Rob Luenberger, chief scientist and senior VP of research and development at AOL, adding that the data could help to better predict how people might respond to ads, for instance.

Many saw the AOL buy as a means for Verizon to turn the data it already generates to enable phone calls and deliver text messages into a viable new revenue stream, in part because AOL provides ad-tech infrastructure and marketer relationships that Verizon lacks. The level of authenticated information derived from Verizon and other mobile operators is seen as potentially more valuable than some other consumer data because it directly connects mobile phone interactions to individuals through actual billing information.

A potential privacy hurdle looms, however. A new privacy proposal for internet service providers such as Verizon introduced by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month could affect data sharing relationships like the AOL-PMI integration. The proposal calls for ISPs to obtain permission from consumers for certain types of data uses that are not core to operating or marketing the ISP's services.

It is unclear whether the FCC proposal, if approved, would hamper current and future AOL and Verizon data sharing. Mr. Demsey declined to comment on the subject, but said that Verizon is deeply involved in privacy-related discussions involving the FCC proposal.

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