AOL's Group Hires CMO

B-to-B Marketing Vet Allie Kline Brought in to Boost Standing in Ad-Tech World

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AOL's Group has hired B-to-B marketing veteran Allie Savarino Kline as its chief marketing officer in a move to boost awareness of the advertising-technology products that AOL has amassed through a spate of acquisitions over the years. Ms. Kline will join AOL early in the new year from 33Across, where she ran marketing for the social-data startup.

Allie Kline
Allie Kline

Up to now, marketing strategy and campaigns for the ad-tech unit of AOL were handled by a central AOL marketing team. But the hiring comes as AOL starts to treat its ad-tech business, content business and legacy consumer-product business as three separate entities with their own marketing teams in advance of planned changes to how AOL reports its quarterly financial results.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong originally said the company would start reporting more-detailed information about the financial performance of the three units by the fourth quarter earnings call in an effort to provide investors with greater transparency, but a spokeswoman yesterday would not guarantee that the company would meet that timetable.

Ms. Kline's first task will be to assess how much the advertising market knows about the Group suite of products, which includes the ad network, the Pictela content management system for ad units, as well as a video syndication service and a demand-side platform that lets advertisers buy online ad space through real-time auctions.

"The initial objective for me and the focus of the team needs to be on the market understanding the full spectrum of the tech products and services that this group has," Ms. Kline said in an interview on Tuesday. "We have a lot more to offer than many may understand or give us credit for."

Part of that process will entail taking a hard look at the name of the Group, which gets its name from the still-thriving ad network business, but doesn't necessarily do justice to the group's full product menu.

"Everything is on the table," said Ned Brody, the group's CEO, when asked if the company plans to rebrand the group's name.

While the ad network business thrived over the past year, AOL has allowed younger companies such as AppNexus, Rubicon Project, MediaMath and Criteo to own the conversation around ad-tech trends such as real-time bidding and retargeting. AOL has recently attempted to address the latter trend with the acquisition last week of a little-known retargeting company called Buysight.

Mr. Brody wouldn't reveal the purchase price of the acquisition, but acknowledged that Buysight "didn't have significant revenue."

"If you can find a company that has strong product assets, an excellent team, but you don't have to pay a revenue multiple," he said, "that 's a good ROI."

Ms. Kline is joining the company during a turbulent time. Last week, Mr. Armstrong told Ad Age that AOL's recently-hired overall CMO Julie Hunt was leaving in a restructuring as Mr. Armstrong looked to decentralize marketing and make the individual content and product brands within AOL more responsible for their own marketing projects and budgets.

But Ad Age learned this week that a disagreement between Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Hunt over the creative direction of an AOL TV ad campaign also contributed to her exit. The TV ad, which was scheduled to premiere on Monday night, has been shelved for now.

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