AOL Shuffles Leadership, Reveals Content-Distribution Developments

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One week after unveiling AOL Platforms and ONE by AOL, the company on Tuesday solidified its division leadership and rolled out its first series of long-form video content for premium video platform AOL On.

Platforms CEO Bob Lord appointed Adap.tv co-founder and CEO Amir Ashkenazi as president of AOL Platforms and Adap.tv president Toby Gabriner as the head of ONE by AOL. Advertising.com veteran Don Kennedy has also been promoted from SVP of revenue and strategy to president of Advertising.com.

Lord described his division as an attempt to band together cross-screen services for advertisers, agencies and publishers. He described the talent as “a gift that [AOL CEO] Tim [Armstrong] has assembled, which makes it easier to understand where we need to go.”

Lord anticipated that Ashkenazi, based on his previous entrepreneurial experience, will play a “critical role around my M&A strategy around Platforms.” He will also work on the company’s ONE product and collaborate with AOL Video president Ran Harnevo on its video strategy.

Gabriner is tasked with selling ONE as a unified, enterprise solution. Many agencies and advertisers tend to use products like Adap.tv or AdLearn Open Platform (AOP) as standalone products, and Gabriner will tap into his past experience working at Adap.tv, Carat Interactive, [x+1] and Tribal Fusion to sell enterprise marketers on using ONE as a one-stop solution for cross-screen campaigns.

“If you look at the Adap.tv model, there’s a lot of work that’s happening around enterprise services,” Lord said. “ONE by AOL has a big enterprise services component to it that we’re going to expand [and] we’re leveraging [Gabriner’s] expertise in that area.”

Gabriner will also oversee Adap.tv, as much of the division’s efforts will be “instrumental” in ONE, Lord added.

Additionally, as the newly appointed president of Advertising.com, Kennedy will complement Gabriner’s and Ashkenazi’s efforts by further developing the cross-screen ad network.

Finally, AOL is integrating Gravity, a content-personalization engine startup it acquired in January, into the Platforms group as a publisher-focused solution. Lord envisions Gravity providing an “interest-based personalization component that will sell to the 22,000 publishers [AOL] works with.”

AOL Goes Long-Form

On other digital fronts, AOL has developed its first series of long-form video content for premium video platform AOL On in a series called “Connected.” This marks AOL’s move into owning the programmatic video supply chain as well as premium inventory and content.

“If you look at what we’re doing with video, we’re in the original production game [and] we are building platforms against the content we have,” said Harnevo, the AOL Video president. He described AOL On as a distribution platform that targets the right content to the right audience at the right time. The platform works with Adap.tv for monetization.

As for the future of long-form content cross-device, Harnevo said AOL placed a bet on over-the-top (OTT) devices earlier than everyone else other than YouTube. OTT content is audio or video delivered to consumers beyond the purview of satellite or cable providers.

“The size of the screen a lot of times is very relative to the length of the content,” Harnevo said. As consumers expand into tablets and OTT devices, AOL has decided to experiment with new content formats. Harnevo added AOL Video is compatible with 12 platforms included Xbox, Roku and Samsung TV. He anticipates more announcements in April.

“Our future is heavily tied to the distribution we’ve built,” Harnevo said. “We’re creating content for AOL.com, but [also for thousands of publishers and] content that goes through Xbox, Roku, etc.”

Gravity will play a large role in this. As AOL Platforms CTO Seth Demsey told AdExchanger prior to ONE’s announcement, the recently integrated acquisition will better help AOL Video personalize its content libraries and, through this personalization, monetize around audiences and content-delivery platforms.

Kelly Liyakasa contributed.

Correction April 1, 2014: The article originally described Toby Gabriner as CEO of ONE by AOL. He is head of ONE by AOL. 

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