AOL Unveils Self-Serve Native Mobile Ads

Claims huge conversion rates in test campaigns

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AOL is rolling out a mobile native ad product today across its sites, including, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, DailyFinance, Engadget and Autoblog.

Some 50 brand advertisers are aboard initially, said a representative for the New York-based digital player, though company names weren't revealed.

While HuffPost has had a sponsored stories ad unit that focused on editorial, this self-serve product is distinctly more tech-driven while offering customized ad look-and-feel, AOL said. Facebook's mobile ads might be a guide to how AOL's promos will appear. AOL Networks global media director Chad Gallagher referenced the social media giant's mobile ads when talking about his company's native promo aspirations with Beet.TV in February.

In recent weeks, AOL said test clients for its native product received postclick conversion rates that were six times higher than clicks on mobile banner ads. Conversion rates on banners ranged fell between .8 percent and 1.2 percent, AOL claimed, while conversions on native averaged between 6 percent and 8 percent.

"Native mobile ads are just better than mobile banner ads—they're easier to read, less annoying, and we get fewer accidental clicks," said Tyler Davis, a partner at digital media agency Chong+Koster. "So when our AOL team told us they're rolling out native mobile ads to their quality publishers like HuffPo and TechCrunch … we wanted to be among the first advertisers to run these ads."

The native units can reach up to 86 million users per month, AOL said.

Meanwhile, April has proven to be a busy month in mobile ad products. Twitter, in the last week, has revealed app install promos and a mobile ad network. Google has also gotten into the mobile app install ads game.

And on April 30, Facebook is expected to unveil a mobile ad network. During its quarterly earnings report yesterday, the social media giant said it was reeling in 1 billion monthly mobile users.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.