The companies say they don’t expect the government to raise antitrust concerns: They’ll continue to compete with each other — but in a way that reduces “friction” for advertisers who want to move display ads between platforms. They’re positioning this alliance as a first step to distinguish their “high-quality inventory” from other sites that advertisers would consider less attractive. Other companies with “high-quality inventory” are welcome to join. The partners hope the program will help to drive up unit costs for their ads, but they say that they don’t know yet how much of an increase they might see. Here’s the release describing how the new plan will work:
REDMOND, Wash., SUNNYVALE, Calif. and NEW YORK, Nov. 8, 2011 — Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and AOL (NYSE: AOL) today announced agreements that should dramatically improve the process of buying and selling premium online display inventory. The agreements will allow ad networks operated by Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL to offer each other’s premium nonreserved online display inventory to their respective advertising customers.
While agencies and advertisers can continue to choose to partner across Yahoo! Network Plus, AOL’s Advertising.com and the Microsoft Media Network (each of which is differentiated by its capabilities around data, optimization, packaging and inventory), this partnership will also offer the efficiency of buying premium display inventory at scale to reach customers and audiences. Simultaneously, the partnership should enhance the demand for and value of each party’s display advertising offerings as well as provide better yield for both participating publishers and advertisers.