AOL Relocates to New York, Shakes Up Sales Group

Mike Kelly Is out as Division Gets New Name and New Boss

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NEW YORK ( -- To further persuade both Wall Street and clients of its commitment to the advertising business, AOL has moved its headquarters north, from Dulles, Va., to New York and reorganized its sales structure.
Curt Viebranz is exec VP-president of Platform A, AOL's new sales unit now based in New York.
Curt Viebranz is exec VP-president of Platform A, AOL's new sales unit now based in New York. Credit: Kent Miller

The move will include not only the advertising and programming executives but also the "decision-making folks," said AOL CEO Randy Falco.

Reorganization vogue
Internal reorganization appears to be in vogue among major online players; Yahoo and Microsoft have recently rejiggered their respective management ranks. As part of AOL's move, Mike Kelly, who led AOL Media Networks, is gone, as is the name of his former sales division. AOL is introducing a new name for its ad sales business, Platform A.

Leading Platform A is Curt Viebranz, as exec VP-president of the division; Lynda Clarizio, head of (AOL's ad network), and Kathy Kayse, who was previously exec VP-sales for AOL Media Networks, will report to Mr. Viebranz.

AOL executives described this move as a "much bigger role" for Ms. Kayse, who will focus on premium branded inventory. Ms. Clarizio will be responsible for the performance-driven advertising within the network.

'Disaggregation' of content
Management said more advertising dollars are moving toward networks and cited the "disaggregation" of content combined with consolidation of ad dollars.

"Portals are not big enough to meet needs of many advertisers," said Ron Grant, AOL's chief operating officer. "The network approach is more effective for scale, quality, efficiency and ROI. ... [This is a] signal to advertisers that we're making a change and committed to network approach."

AOL has also come under scrutiny recently. After several quarters, where it outpaced the online industry's ad growth, growth slowed to 16% in second quarter. Management declined to speculate whether today's changes would help it jump back above industry growth rates but, said Mr. Falco in an interview, the changes are "critically important."

"We have aspirations that this will help our growth rate," he said. "Display advertising is no longer what it used to be. It's diversifying and more and more it has tools like behavioral, contextual. There's more ROI-based inventory being sold."

Not fully centralized
The company has been criticized in the past for having disparate factions, between the dial-up business based in Dulles and its ad-sales business in New York. Additionally, is based in Baltimore and Third Screen Media in Boston.

As to whether this announcement signaled the end of AOL's acquisition spree in which it bought Tacosda, Third Screen Media and ad server AdTech, Mr. Grant said: "You're never done. ... Our parent company [Time Warner] has given us all support and investment we need and we plan on being very aggressive."

AOL said there were no mass layoffs as a result of the reorganization.
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