AOL (NYSE: TWX) completed a spate of acquisitions over the past year. Getting it all together is the main job now. The question of “how” was put to Lynda Clarizio, President, Platform-A & EVP, AOL at our EconAds Seminar by Staci D. Kramer, Co-Editor & EVP, ContentNext Media, paidContent’s parent. Clarizio: “In terms of where we are now, we’ve done all the internal work, what can we do externally? We have one Platform-A IO, we’ve introduced a number of products, including the Spot Marketplace, which lets advertisers bid on select unsold inventory on a CPM basis across AOL owned-and-operated sites, as well as the Advertising.com third-party network, and the earlier PubAccess inventory management tool for publishers in the Advertising.com network.”
— On TACODA: The behavioral targeting unit has been the focus of a lot of coverage lately, as many of the top executives who came with the company, including Curt Viebranz, who Clarizio succeeded as the head of Platform-A, and founder Dave Morgan, have left, followed by a string of other senior level departures. But Clarizio suggested that this was all resulting from a transition period that will ultimately produce a larger entity. Clarizio: “In a week, we will be enabling TACODA to come buy behavioral across the whole network. It hasn’t been complicated by the departures. We’re not happy about it, but we’re trying to make TACODA bigger than it was before. Over the past several weeks, we’ve taken the smaller TACODA network and merged it into the broader Advertising.com network. By bringing the products together, you have broader reach and a greater array of tools — and only one contract to sign… Behavioral only works if it’s on scale. And that’s what we’re achieving.”
She later added: “We had competition among all these different sales forces; we had to remove the barriers. We’re going into clients right now… the power of Platform-A is to go into a client and say… you can come in and purchase premium-brand experience on AOL, and then you can buy companion inventory across the network.” “We’re running companion campaigns (across the network).”
— On Bebo: The purchase of the UK social net only closed a little more than a week ago, Clarizio pointed out, saying that no major announcements were at the ready about how AOL would recoup the $850 million the company spent to acquire it. “We’re still working on the strategy.” She added: “Bebo is not your usual social network, it is different from social networks in the U.S.” and that it has a “more engaged audience.”
— International goals: How does Bebo fit in with its global plans? Acknowledging that Bebo is more well known in the UK, AOL has plans to launch in other European countries and to grow it in the U.S.
— On pork bellies and vertical ad nets: Asked about the ongoing controversy and confusion over the remnant ad sales networks that Advertising.com represents and the vertical ad nets that companies like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) and other major web publishers have set up to sell premium placements, Clarizio said it’s an apples and oranges debate. “We’re not trying to compete with them… a little confused by this debate. I think they serve very different purposes… People do come to us sometimes, and they’re asking for that and that’s not what we offer… we sell performance solutions and we do sell branding solutions. We’re always very, very careful to point out to our clients that we don’t sell directly.”
— The rise of vertical: “It’s all about scale. At the end of the day, the players that can deliver scale, along with targeting, will be the ones that are going to win. We stress the three R’s — reach, relevance and richness. We believe we have that across our properties.”