AOL has announced a new international leadership team, as it looks to re-shape the business in the wake of an “extraordinary” period of mergers and acquisitions.
The company was acquired by US telecoms giant Verizon in June, before itself signing a 10-year advertising partnership with Microsoft covering nine markets, and then acquiring Millennial Media last month.
The goal? To be “the most important media technology business in the world”.
In pursuit of this aim, AOL has appointed four former Microsoft Advertising heads to lead its operations in the markets where the merger gives it a significant boost in scale and talent.
Markus Frank, Christina Lundari, Raul de la Cruz and Marcos Swarowsky will head up the newly-integrated operations in Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil respectively, while an announcement is expected soon about its French business.
In Japan, ex-Microsoft boss Hirotaka Sakashita will report into Hanazaki Shigeharu, CEO of AOL Platforms Japan, while Hamish Nicklin continues to head up the UK business, with Stuart Flint as commercial director.
“Operationally it has been a big lift. Everybody has an enormous sense of enthusiasm around the possibilities”
In the international team, Phil Duffield – who joined AOL in 2013 as part of its acquisition of Adap.tv – becomes head of international demand, overseeing all sales revenue on a programmatic and IO basis.
Reporting into Duffield, Penny Harris becomes head of multinational sales, with AOL looking to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook with a bolstered multi-market sales operation.
Elsewhere, Henk Van Niekerk becomes be head of publisher services, international, and will be responsible from bringing AOL and Millennial Media’s respective publisher services teams under one roof.
Jo Bury has been appointed head of international business development, and Donna Hindson, previously marketing director for Microsoft Advertising UK, becomes international head of field and channel marketing.
Speaking exclusively to M&M Global, Graham Moysey (pictured, above), head of AOL International, admitted it had been an “extraordinarily busy” time – but claims advertisers will be won over by the newly “supercharged” AOL.
Here is what Moysey had to say about the Verizon, Microsoft and Millennial Media deals, and AOL’s opportunity to cement its place as a “top three” global digital media player.
Moysey on… the Verizon deal
“The biggest piece to fall was the Verizon acquisition. It really was testament to the tools that AOL has built up over the six years Tim [Armstrong] has been running it. Verizon was our largest advertiser, and got an opportunity to work very closely with us and look under the hood as we rolled out a more comprehensive programmatic platform. It discovered that AOL is very tightly aligned with the areas they are focused on, namely content and technology media tools.”
On… the Microsoft partnership
“It immediately changes the scope and scale of the offering that AOL has. We not only bring on board an enormous amount of inventory globally, we also immediately become a number three player in most of those markets, and number three globally.
“We’ve taken on a huge amount of talent through that partnership, so it has given us enhanced footprints in markets like Germany, Spain and Italy – where we had existing operations, but we’ve now buttressed those businesses.”
On… the Millennial Media acquisition
“This is exciting from the perspective of talent. Not as many folks are coming over as with Microsoft, but a significant amount from a lot of our strategic markets. The UK will serve as a hub for EMEA, and Singapore as a hub for APAC. From a product perspective, AOL has had a slight blind spot in terms of inventory and sophistication in mobile, so we’re really excited about the Millennial offering.”
On… building a new-look international team
“Operationally it has been a big lift. Everybody has an enormous sense of enthusiasm around the possibilities. From my perspective, I’m seeing huge energy levels. There is risk there, but the positivity and enthusiasm is by far outweighing it.
“If you’re a sales person, or a product person, or a marketer, I think the idea of being able to expand your portfolio and emerge the other side [more skilled] is a huge opportunity. Overwhelmingly, clients and agency partners are encouraging the integration, and that helps people to stay really positive.”
On… AOL’s future
“Right now, I don’t see AOL as a brand going anywhere. It has 100% brand recall globally. Our responsibility is to make sure the composite parts of that brand continue to perform well, and then there will be a positive halo effect.
“It’s about delivery – delighting our consumers from an engagement perspective, and also our customers from an advertising solutions perspective. And, to be frank, I think the brand takes care of itself.
“We have very lofty ambitions around being one global media company – that as a mission statement is ambitious, and really motivates the staff.”