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Summary:

Dave Morgan, the founder of online advertising firms RealMedia (which later became 24/7RealMedia and sold to WPP for $649 million) and Tacod…

Dave Morgan, the founder of online advertising firms RealMedia (which later became 24/7RealMedia and sold to WPP for $649 million) and Tacoda, is leaving AOL (NYSE: TWX) exactly three months after being appointed EVP-Global Advertising Strategy, according to an internal memo we obtained. The official announcement will come later today. Morgan came to AOL after he sold his behavioral advertising company Tacoda to it in September, for about $275 million.

The memo, sent by Ron Grant, COO of AOL, outlines a rather cordial parting of ways, and when I reached Morgan last evening by phone, he confirmed his departure, and echoed the thoughts. From the text of the memo:

“Dave has worked side by side with Curt to make sure the integration of Tacoda — his baby — went smoothly…Dave helped us define and implement our vision for Platform-A. We

  1. Not a big loss, could make agrument that it's a good development for AOL.

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  2. Morgan did little at AOL but spout big thoughts and had nothing to do with the acquisition strategy that resulted in Platform A, which is obvious, since he wasn't there when the Platform A deals were done: by the time Tacoda was acquired all the Platform A deals were either completed or, like Quigo, already identified and locked up. Just alot of spin and Rafat/ paidcontent is the spinnee. There's no love lost between AOL and Morgan.

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  3. taj and stone, you obviously know little of Dave and/or have never actually talked to the guy. If you did you would not be making such moronic statements.

    He is the founder of one of the early online ad networks as well as one of the first behavioral targeting networks. He is well connected and respected throughout the industry. It is not everyday you have talent like that in house. This is definitely a loss for AOL no matter how you spin it (especially with where they want to go with Platform A).

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  4. What bodes even worse for AOL is that they built the entire Platform A using Morgan's Tacoda as one of the cornerstones of the company. Not only now is Morgan leaving AOL high and dry, but I think he sold them a bill of goods since Tacoda doesn't even own the technology they built their entire company on.

    My understanding is they essentially stole their behavioral marketing technology from a small company out of Arizona (Modavox) that actually owns the patented technology. See http://www.modavox.com/news/080907.asp

    This company is actually suing AOL/Tacoda for patent infringement as we speak and my research indicates they have them dead to right. If AOL loses this suit or allows someone else to acquire this little company and their IP portfolio, the ramifications to AOL and their Platform A could be extremely damaging, literally precluding them from utilizing the behavioral targeting technology they thought they were getting when Morgan sold them Tacoda.

    Without this critical technology, AOL's entire online advertising model could be severly cripled as they would be virtually incapable of monetizing their large audiences. You can have the traffic and you can have the advertisers but if you can't custom tailor the content to the consumers on behalf of the advertisers to increase ROI, the entire process breaks down.

    I view it as just a matter of time before one of the major players realizes the leverage they'd gain against their competitors by acquiring Modavox. AOL seems to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, they now have the chance to acquire the technology they thought they were getting when they paid Morgan and company $275 million. This could prove to be a critical and defining point for Platform A.

    They better act quick or Platform A may receive a failing grade in the eyes of the market, quickly becoming Platform F.

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  5. Interesting info, John Harris, but looking at MDVX's stock price, it definitely doesn't appear that the market is betting on Modavox winning that lawsuit (which in any event will take 12-48 months to settle).

    Also, Platform A appears to be much more than just Tacoda. It also includes:

    Advertising.com (display network)
    Quigo (contextual ad network)
    Buy.at (UK-based affiliate network)
    AdTech (ad server to compete with Atlas and DART)
    Third Screen Media (large mobile ad network)
    UserPlane (website chat/community platform)
    Lightningcast (streaming audio & video advertising)

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