AOL Rainmaker Tries Another Turnaround


When new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong removed relationships-oriented Greg Coleman from the top of AOL ad sales and replaced him with Jeff Levick, a wonky numbers-cruncher from Google, it essentially left Platform-A’s North American sales boss Mark Ellis the highest-ranking, hard-charging sales guy in the operation.

That put Mark in the challenging position of turning around AOL’s struggling brand advertising business, which was a key factor in the company’s 20% and 18% ad revenue drops over the past two quarters.

Fortunately for AOL and parent-company Time Warner (TWX), Mark already has turned around an AOL business in a challenging market — Detroit.

Before ad boss Mike Kelly hired Mark in 2004, AOL had little market share with the big three automakers in Detroit. That changed under Mark’s “creative” and “organised” leadership, says a source who worked with him then. AOL soon became a market leader in Detroit and by 2007, it was just as much a part of Ford’s huge “Swap My Ride,” campaign as cable nets USA, Lifetime and CNN and online rivals ESPN, Time, MSN, and Yahoo.

Already, Mark is trying to bring the same organisation he brought to Detroit. Yesterday, for example, he sent a memo demanding Platform-A sales people log their calls. It’s a standard rule for sales operations and a basic move on Mark’s part, but that only amplifies how profoundly it was needed.

Here’s the memo:

Platform-A Sales:

The sales management team discussed and agreed that one way to make us better as a sales organisation is to increase, track and report sales call activity at the individual seller level.  It is a virtual certainty that the more quality meetings and calls we make, the more revenue will increase.  To that end, we are making it mandatory to log your face-to-face customer meetings in SFDC.  You will also have the ability to track phone calls, but use of that tool is optional and will be left up to managers and sellers to decide if and how to use.

By now you should have all received the Salesforce Activity Tracking and Log A Call training decks. For reference, they are stored on the Sales Portal. We will pull the first national report on Monday, June 1st to look at the meeting activity levels per office.  That means that you have one month to get comfortable and compliant.  Attached is a short document that contains some further qualifications surrounding activity tracking in Please review.

Meetings are generally defined as:

  • Presentation at client’s office
  • Summit at Platform-A office
  • Lunch with client
  • After hours or event with client

For assistance with Activity tracking, please reach out to [redacted] Demos are available on request. I want to ensure that everyone understands how to make use of the Salesforce Outlook synch.

Please let me know if you have questions.  Also, please forward this to anybody I may have missed as we get the mailing lists aligned.



Will this kind of leadership lead to a turnaround in AOL sales? We think only if Mark also rejiggers sales compensation so that there’s real incentive for sales people to up-sell clients into premium inventory and not just dump them into

But one source reacted to this memo with something like a Hallelujah:

None of Ellis’ recent predecessors have asked for what he is now asking for. The fact that he had to convene a meeting of his lieutenants to decide what was needed to better track sales and the activities of individual sales people is a sad commentary on the quality of AOL’s regional sales management. Makes you wonder what all the Regional VP’s and Regional Sales Directors have been doing to manage sales and track their people. What Ellis is asking for is sales management 101.

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