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Dennis Woodside will succeed Tim Armstrong as the head of sales for Google (NSDQ: GOOG) following the ad vet’s appointment as chairman and CEO of AOL (NYSE: TWX), paidContent learned just as the news was announced internally this afternoon. Armstrong (still on the Google corporate site) was a principal architect of the search company’s sales operation; he leaves as president, The Americas Operations. Woodside will be VP-Americas Operations, reporting to Omid Kordestani, SVP-Global Sales & Business Development. The transition will take place over the next few weeks; Armstrong, in fact, is still listed on the Google corporate site. Woodside has been at Google for more than five years, most recently as VP for the UK, Ireland and Benelux. It’s not exactly the same job, though — Armstrong was a member of Google’s operating committee and he was a corporate SVP.
Kordestani told the staff: “We believe it’s now time … to tailor our business strategies more closely to the different situations we face in different countries (more mature versus less mature markets).”
More on the challenges Woodside faces after the jump.
Some of what Kordestani had to say about Woodside, who is a triathlete: “In the five and a half years that Dennis has been at Google (that’s over half our company’s lifetime) he’s brought incredible integrity and entrepreneurialism to everything he’s done. I remember Dennis setting off from Mountain View in 2005, a year and a half after he joined, to start our direct sales operations in Eastern Europe, which he quickly transformed into a substantial part of our business. He also set up our Inside Sales Operations in Dublin – again building it from scratch. In September 2006, he became our Vice President for the UK, Ireland and Benelux where he’s helped to create a first class team as well as establish very positive relationships with our big partners on both the advertiser and agency side, including 02, Marks & Spencer, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and Omnicom.”
— David adds: By naming Armstrong’s successor in less than a week, Google only demonstrates the importance of the role. Armstrong had been at Google for nine years and was the company’s direct connection to advertisers and ad agencies. While most agencies regarded Google as a “frenemy” to one extent or another, Armstrong was widely liked and respected by Madison Ave. Woodside’s profile as a global ad exec, while positive, means he’s a stranger to most U.S. ad execs. Michael Hayes, EVP-digital communications at IPG’s Initiative, told AdAge that Woodside’s task would be to help Google translate YouTube’s audience dominance into ad dollars. And as ad spending in general keeps getting pulled back, Woodside will have to manage the additional challenges associated with turning Google TV into a real business, though efforts like that — and the defunct Google Radio and Google Print services — were always seen as ancillary anyway, at least as far as agencies were concerned.
— Advertisers and agencies will likely be in wait-and-see mode regarding Armstrong’s replacement. There was muted surprise that Google would choose a relative unknown compared to the Madison Ave. all-stars it has in its employ, Some of the suggestions I heard as likely candidates for Armstrong’s post last week included 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 one digital ad exec told me, “I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those names decided to jump ship some time in the next few months. One of Woodside’s jobs will be to retain Google’s talent at a tough time.”