AOL @ MWC: Telcos Turn To Content To Make Connections

Although Verizon’s appetite for ad tech was the main driver behind its acquisition of AOL, it’s content that really sweetened the deal.

“Our content is a differentiator for Verizon amidst all of the other telcos,” AOL CMO Allie Kline told AdExchanger.

But there’s a lot knocking around under the AOL umbrella – everything from ad tech to Mail to content creators and publishers, like The Huffington Post and TechCrunch – and the overall vision can get lost in the noise.

“We do need to get a tighter story,” Kline said. “How can we connect all of our products and the technologies that power each thing to make the whole experience simpler and better?”

Content, mobile content in particular, is a throughline that can help provide an answer.

“We have a large audience in terms of size and scope, and it’s an audience that increasingly connects through a mobile device, through the filter of mobility,” Kline said. “But a lot of what’s happening in the ad tech sector today is going beyond ad tech into content tech and mobile tech. The question is what we should do with it.”

AdExchanger caught up with Kline at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

AdExchanger: AOL has a lot of moving parts. What’s one thing you want people to know?

ALLIE KLINE: Content creation, distribution and advertising along with data is making each segment of the consumer experience smarter in a video-led and mobile-first way. There’s a lot of change happening inside most big brands and publishers and they need to start operating differently from how they’ve operated historically.

Can you encapsulate AOL’s overall strategy and goals from a content standpoint?

We’ve set out is to build a brand that people love. It’s a broad mission, but intentionally so. We have a lot of horizontal advantage and a lot of advertiser, data and content crossover to leverage, but it never jeopardizes the individuality of our brands. When each brand is clear on what it needs to build and why, it works.

Where does Yahoo content fit into all of that?

Yahoo is very similar to AOL in that it has consumer brands that have very strong engagement in their category, including Sports, Finance, News and Tumblr, as well as a suite of platform brands that they’ve built [and bought], like Gemini, Flurry and BrightRoll.

To the extent it’s possible given the limits of what you go through with this type of transaction, we’re looking at all of these assets as a whole and continue to think about making them into a simpler, easier and more cohesive solution so that they’re faster and more effective for advertisers and agencies to use, with a specific focus on publishers, content owners and personalization.

Telcos and ad tech have been having a love affair of sorts, most recently with the SingTel/Turn deal. Will we see more?

Telcos have the closest point of access to consumers and connectivity through the mobile device and I don’t see that changing.

But telecoms aren’t just moving into ad tech – they’re moving toward connecting with content, and that’s really powerful. It’s one of the reasons AOL was so exciting to Verizon. It’s not just about the ad tech, it’s also the content access we brought.

Think about getting content in front of a consumer and being able to monetize. It’s very expensive to create good content. If the [mobile] device is the television of the future and what everyone will need to be on, the ability to leverage that device to deliver the most powerful customer experience is critical – including advertising to underwrite the content.

Telecoms are essential for the growth and future of ad tech.

Is an AOL rebrand still on the table?

A new “holding company” name that represents our house of brands versus one brand has been under consideration for some time. How can we set AOL free to represent what it is and not ask it to carry everything, all of the ad tech and the consumer brands, which are very different? The work on that is deep in play and I don’t think it will disappoint.

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