AOL's Advertising Systems Overload


Memo to new AOL ad sales boss Jeff Levick: We have two quick things to slot in at the top of your to-do list:

  1. Make it easier for ad sales people to sell premium inventory.
  2. Create incentive for them to do it.

One big reason AOL ad sales were down 20% during the first quarter is that AOL sales people lean too much on the company’s in-house, low-priced advertising network,, instead of pushing clients into higher-priced premium display advertising.

But even though this is bad for Time Warner’s (TWX) online subsidiary, it turns out we can hardly blame the sales people.


Selling premium advertising at AOL is a much more laborious process for ad sales people, and there isn’t even proper incentive to push them to do it.

During his conference call with Platform-A execs to announce their new boss, Jeff Levick, new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said that because of AOL’s many acquisitions over the years, sales people have to work with as many as 6 to 13 systems to manage a premium ad campaign. Another company source tells us the number is actually closer to five.

Still, setting an campaign in motion requires just one system.

Of course, a little extra work that helps AOL as much as up-selling clients into higher-priced inventory wouldn’t be such a big thing if the company’s ad sales force were given the proper incentive.

But — shockingly — they are not. It’s mind-blowing, but sources tell us its true: AOL ad sales people do not get paid any more for pushing clients into higher-priced inventory.

Here’s the silver-lining: We hear Jeff isn’t actually much of a sales-y guy and is best at analysing data. Isn’t it nice to know he’s got two so very easy fixes ahead of him?

Update: A commenter who claims to work for AOL writes:

It is MUCH more laborious to sell the network – which is WAY more complicated than ONE system. Trust me – selling a network buy, getting it processed, launched, and billed is the 13 different system process. If there was one system, then we would all be living the life. Selling the O&O higher priced inventory, programs, and the audience is an easier thing to sell to the clients that understand that branding plays still work.

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