Less than a year ago, when Lynda Clarizio took over AOL’s Platform A, she was hailed as saviour –an executive with the chops and experience to quickly integrate a half-dozen recent acquisitions and get AOL firing on all cylinders again. (Curt Viebranz, the former head of Platform A got the boot for his failure to do this.)
One of Lynda’s first moves was to integrate the Advertising.com and AOL salesforces. This made sense conceptually: Why would the same company have different salespeople calling on the same advertisers?
But according to sources we spoke to at the time, Clarizio combined the salesforces largely by firing AOL’s premium-ad salespeople and replacing them with Advertising.com remnant-ad salespeople. This move was consistent with AOL president Ron Grant’s emphasis on ad networks, instead of proprietary ad inventory, driving the company’s growth going forward. It also appears to have turned out to be the disaster one source predicted it would be. The source believed that Advertising.com’s salespeople did not know how to sell premium inventory and that AOL’s premium sales would collapse.
The concern made sense: If you were an advertiser, would you pay a $10-$15 CPM to buy inventory on AOL’s properties when your AOL salesperson, the one you knew from Advertising.com, was also selling you the same or similar inventory at a $0.25 CPM through Advertising.com? Neither would we. And neither, apparently, did real-world advertisers–which partially explains the collapse in AOL’s advertising revenue over the past year.
A source close to the situation says the Greg Coleman’s hiring is “all about premium” ad sales and that AOL believes the Coleman hire is akin to “replacing an average third-baseman with A-Rod.” (The reviews we have received about Greg so far are mixed.) In reality, in our opinion, the move is all about reversing Lynda Clarizio’s decision to can AOL’s experienced premium salespeople, as well as AOL’s recent emphasis on ad networks. Which means that AOL has lost yet another year.
Are Randy Falco and Ron Grant, AOL’s bosses, going to be held accountable for this? Lynda was their hire, and they presumably supported her salesforce integration decisions. Now, a year later, with AOL missing its targets again, it seems Lynda will take the fall.
The Bebo acquisition. Emphasis on networks vs. proprietary inventory. Platform A. Lynda. Never-ending missed projections. How much failure will Jeff Bewkes take?
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