AOL Introduces AdVictims

AOL Trap

In news I might’ve missed over the holidays, Google rolled out a beta version of AdWords for AOL. The project should’ve stayed hush-hush, strictly on the down-low, but news of AdWords for AOL, part of their new “AOL Search Marketplace,” was “leaked” without AOL’s knowledge ahead of the formal announcement, which is pending.

Background: AOL struck their first deal with Google in 2002 to help them improve their search ranking. Google received a stake in AOL in exchange. AOL and Google renewed the agreement in December, 2005, for a much higher price. The AdWords project springs from that, according to AOL’s Blogging Stocks.

AOL’s ad revenue is increasing thanks to their ownership of advertising.com, an ad network that sells display advertising to third-party (read: not AOL) websites. With AdWords they’ll attempt to expand their ad-driven model more. Soon they might be in a position to mirror Google on a smaller scale (all that’s missing now is Google’s high stock price and positive cash flow).

I take issue with Blogging Stocks spin on this partnership. They say:

“Google’s prevailing ad model allows advertisers to better target potential customers.”

What they really mean is:

“Google’s prevailing ad model allows advertisers to better target potential victims.”

There is a simple reason for this that online advertising hawks know well. AOL and non-AOL subscribers are different. AOL’s are often older, have a much higher income, buy more products online, and aren’t as well-educated about the pitfalls of advertising networks, so they’re more likely to click on any ad they see and to download more spyware, adware, and viruses than the average non-AOL subscriber ever will.

Pushing targeted advertising to AOL subscribers is a cakewalk. They’re the easiest consumers to sell anything to; they’re the most naive and the least likely to question even the most outrageously worded ad, including ones that would send more savy online consumers running for their lives.