The initial reaction of some online ad execs to the sudden installment of Google’s top ad exec Tim Armstrong at the top of AOL (NYSE: TWX) — replacing Chairman and CEO Randy Falco — has received a mix of head-scratching and approval that the company has finally responded to a growing chorus for change at the beleaguered Time Warner property. Earlier today, Pali Research’s Rich Greenfield issued a blistering call (sub. req.) for the company to oust Falco and AOL COO Ron Grant. Later on, Greenfield issued a reaction, saying “the tyranny ends.” He added, “We believe the only reason that Armstrong would agree to run AOL is the ability to manage a public company of his own in the near future (he was unlikely to run all of GOOG anytime soon).”
In any case, now that both Falco and Grant are out, AOL insiders say they are almost “numb” to the spate of changes the past few days — yesterday’s layoff of 300 staffers as part of a previously announced plan to cut 700 jobs, the replacing of Platform-A head Lynda Clarizio with former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad sales exec Greg Coleman, and the departure of Maneesh Dhir as EVP-international — have been a lot to take. Morale has been understandably low since the Time Warner unit’s struggling display ad business this past summer. But the recent shakeups and reorgs have only intensified the feeling that the business is on the rocks. “I don’t think I’ll be here much longer” is a constant refrain from several staffers I talk to.
As for reaction to the latest moves, AOL-ers and outside ad industry execs both have high praise for the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) exec. But many wonder whether he’ll clash with Coleman, who has already started remaking the team at Platform-A. Meanwhile, speculation also has ad industry execs wondering who will replace Armstrong. Several sources I spoke to outside the company suggest David Eun, VP for Strategic Partnerships; David Rosenblatt, President, Global Display Advertising & Vice President; Penry Price, VP, Ad Sales, North America; and David Fischer, VP, Global Online Sales & Operations, as likely internal candidates.
— Armstrong and Coleman, or Oil and Water?: One ad industry vet who has knows both men say both are excellent ad sales managers, but their perspectives are very different. “Greg is an old media guy at heart and given his newness there, given their strong personalities, I wonder how they’ll work together. I think it’ll be oil and water. Plus, all this change seems just smacks of so much desperation. And I think it’s worth asking if Tim, despite his skills, is a transformational guy.” Still, others say that AOL is desperate and that a change was needed. Former AOL exec Jim Bankoff, who now heads online sports marketing firm SB Nation, said “Tim is a great choice to run AOL and I am sure the talented team there is excited to have a leader like him.” More to come