AOL (NYSE: TWX) aims to complete the global integration of its Platform-A ad network components by end of 2009, following today’s announcement it is taking the consortium to Europe. And it’s not ruling out even more acquisitions along the way.
The seven-division composite – the result of an 18-month agency acquisition binge including Tacoda, Quigo, Buy.at, Advertising.com, AdTech and Third Screen Media – has so far been joined-up only in the US. New London-based international head Brendan Condon told me the continental expansion, making Platform-A the umbrella everywhere – would involve mimicking the US integration through office co-location and other unification… but there’s still no word on how Bebo will feature.
– What’s ‘integration’ mean?: AOL won’t close any existing European offices in combining there but: “We may look to co-habit some of the existing offices. Where it makes good business sense, we will look to bring some of the assets together … an ability to provide common goals not only for our media objectives but also for our staff.” Combination will happen country-by-country and business-by-business. “By the end of the year, we’ll have quite a number of new product offerings combined with existing ones.” The aim is to offer advertisers “a global solution”.
– Is the buying spree over?: “Like any smart company, we’re always looking at the marketplace to see what’s out there, what’s working and if there’s some kind of a relationship that should be developed, whether it’s partnership, joint venture or an acquisition; we will always keep our eyes open.”
– Bebo: Platform-A leverage was given as reason number one for selling to AOL, but what will that look like? Condon could not answer exactly, saying the new AOL People Networks division led by Bebo president Joanna Shields is driving that: “We look at every asset in the AOL family … we appreciate all the assets people bring to Platform-A and we’d be happy to help them monetise them in any way, shape or form.” Condon also wasn’t able to confirm whether Yahoo’s (NSDQ: YHOO) deal to serve Bebo’s display ads in UK, Ireland and Australia will be expired in favour of his own Platform-A offering – a logical conclusion, given the acquisition…
– Platform-A’s progress: Back in the US, integration is “making great strides”: “To do it right, it’s never really sexy. It’s a lot about communicating amongst the teams, making sure that they have an understanding of each of the product suites. A lot of it is back-office work and alignment.” Condon wants a “unified front” but AOL won’t go so far on integration that it will kill individual Platform-A unit names in favour of the the umbrella’s title: “Lots of these brands have wonderful brand equity. I don’t believe it would be smart to lose that equity and the comfort level that advertisers have come to know with these brands. Clients will be working with those brands with Platform-A.” After the exit of Tacoda’s Curt Viebranz and Dave Morgan, any more executive departures on the cards? “You never anticipate frankly what will happen … there’s nothing that’s planned in such a manner.”
– Role within AOL: Until we hear more on the Bebo/Platform-A plans, it sounds like Platform-A is playing a sort of internal contractor role. For example, AOL’s new vertical blogs (ie. Asylum ParentDish) have been launched after the portal conducted its own research, “then I look at that and say ‘I can help those properties monetise themselves’”.