AOL, one of the largest digital content and advertising companies, is undergoing a significant shakeup in its executive ranks.
Jeff Levick, who headed up global sales for the company and was responsible for its global advertising strategy, is leaving the company, said CEO Tim Armstrong. The company also reported the departures of two other key executives, Lauren Hurvitz, head of public relations, and human resources head Kathy Andreasen, also known as AOL's chief people officer.
In the wake of these moves, the New York-based company plans to reorganize the sales staff and its ad network, Advertising.com, into a combined division headed by Ned Brody as its chief revenue officer, a new title at the company. Mr. Brody, who was formerly head of Advertising.com, will now be responsible for what amounts to the entire arm of AOL's sales operations that also includes owned properties such as HuffingtonPost.com and AOL.com, as well as its ad technologies group.
A Google veteran of more than six years, Mr. Levick joined AOL in 2009 to head up its sales and revenue plans and oversaw its strategy to bring in brand ad dollars. At Google, he led the search giant's North American marketing and sales group. He now becomes the latest Google veteran to leave AOL. Former Googler and content chief David Eun left in February after the acquisition of Huffington Post.
Mr. Levick spearheaded the company's push for a new magazine-like online ad format, "Project Devil," and played a role in the acquisition of ad technology company Pictela.
This change, Mr. Armstrong said, "is about simplifying the organization targeted around pretty simple outcomes, which is we want to be a leader in the digital content space and a leader in digital advertising."
Of Mr. Levick's departure, Mr. Armstrong said AOL benefited from having "multiple strong leaders," but that it was important for the company to pare down its corporate structure in an effort to bring in more brand dollars.
That strategy has been playing out at AOL for the better part of two years and it has made little headway competing against bigger rivals Yahoo, Facebook, MSN and Google. The so-called Big Five of digital media have all embarked upon campaigns in the past two years to tempt marketers with bigger ad formats or more targeted messages as they try to scratch away at TV's command of the major media market with 38% of ad dollars compared to the internet's 17%, according to ZenithOptimedia.
"Today's announcements are really about focusing on the $40 billion that needs to transition from the traditional brand space into the digital brand space," he said.
AOL's various publishers will now report directly to Mr. Armstrong, a bit of an unusual move that puts the CEO more directly in charge of content business. "Maybe you can consider me the uber-publisher for now," he said. Thus far, the publishing group consists of Chris Grosso (AOL.com), Brian Kaminsky (Huffington Post), Kerry Trainor (entertainment, e.g. Moviefone, AOL Music), Jay Kirsch (marketplace, e.g., AOL Autos, Finance, AOL Industry) and TechCrunch publisher Heather Harde, who will head up all tech at AOL, including Engadget.
AOL also announced promotions of sales executives Tim Castelli, Wendy MacGregor, Tim Richards and Jim Norton to senior VPs, along with Michael O' Connor, who will be bumped up to head of sales operations. Don Kennedy will head up Advertising.com sales, all reporting to Mr. Brody.
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