AOL Expands Ad Partnership With Verizon

AOL today announced that it has expanded its deal with Verizon to manage the telecom provider’s online inventory and its wireless subsidiary’s mobile inventory through the Platform A advertising division.

The deal builds on the existing partnership Verizon (NYSE: VZ) had with Third Screen Media, a mobile ad-placement company which AOL acquired last May. Under the new arrangement, AOL will be the only ad sales group that can guarantee ad placement on Verizon’s online and mobile networks.

To be clear, AOL will only have exclusive rights to represent Verizon’s ad inventory in the open marketplace, so any other any other ad seller that places an ad on Verizon’s network would be acting blindly.

The announcement comes at an interesting time for AOL. Since Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) bombshell acquisition bid for Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) on February 1, each of the top four Web giants has been engaged in high-stakes talks about potential alliances, mergers and buyouts as the industry lurches toward a dramatic remaking.

A source familiar with the talks told that the form the proposed partnership would take is far from certain. The widely reported scenario would have Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) sell AOL to Yahoo for about $10 billion, and take a minority stake in the combined company. That a formal deal will be proposed is a near certainty, the source said; the form that it will take with the many moving parts in play is still being debated.

AOL is also in the midst of launching the Chinese versions of its portal: Taiwan launched today; Hong Kong is slated to launch tomorrow.

AOL’s Platform A, the consolidated structure created to house all of its advertising acquisitions under one roof, is positioned as the engine for the Web pioneer’s future growth.

According to figures from comScore, Platform A has the largest reach of any online ad network, serving ads to 170.5 million U.S. Internet users in March, or 91 percent of the online population. In second place was Yahoo’s ad network, which reached 85 percent of U.S. Internet users; at No. 3, Google’s reached 81 percent of the online community.

A spokesman for AOL’s Platform A told that this is the ad network’s only exclusive partnership with a telecommunications or wireless provider. Verizon does not have a partnership with Platform A to buy advertising.

The spokesman said that Platform A looks forward to more, similar deals, but that much of the division’s focus at present is on combining the companies, which, in addition to Third Screen Media, include, Quigo and Tacoda.

comScore said that as an independent company, would be the largest ad network on the Web, reaching 167 million Internet users.

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