AdExchanger: What are the top items on your immediate agenda?
TIM MAHLMAN: I’m building a narrative around three pillars: mobile, video and data. That’s where our engineering resources are going.
What do you need to do to accomplish those things?
With the Nexage product coming on board through the Millennial Media acquisition, we’ve been able to beef up the publisher side of the house. We have a very aggressive road map strategy around being a true self-service walk-up platform. Self-service is already in play, but we’ll keep expanding that for the rest of the year.
We see video as very complementary to mobile. In terms of data, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Verizon’s acquisition of AOL, and we’ve done extensive work to make sure that Verizon is able to leverage its data, in terms of obfuscating it and making sure we’re meeting all the privacy regulations.
How would you summarize your vision for AOL Platforms?
To become a global mobile media and technology platform. The industry knows we’ve made acquisitions, but how much do they know about what we’ve done to put the technology at the forefront of mobile?
The second piece is simplicity and making our assets as easy to use as possible. This has been a six-year labor of love for [Tim] Armstrong with over a billion dollars spent on acquisitions to put all the pieces in place.
What problem are you solving?
How many different technology partners do advertisers and publishers need to use? There might be four SSPs just within display and an advertiser could use three DSPs just to run their video business. We’ve got all those assets, so why not make it more accessible to leverage those tools and capabilities together and cut down on the tax?
We can also overlay data on top of it, and that gives us a seat at the table that few others have.
What should people know about AOL Platforms that they don’t seem to get?
My core focus is to make sure the industry knows that the AOL Platforms division is very much alive, well and thriving. Under my leadership, we’ll continue to build to where we see the industry evolving – mobile platforms, thinking about how video plays into that and using first-party deterministic data to help separate us from the others.
What are you personally bringing to your new post?
This is where I get back into my past. If you look at my resume, I don’t come from a big business background. Other than a three-year stint at Yahoo, I spent all of my time at startups. I like working in nimble, fast-paced organizations, and by taking on this role and restructuring how we go to market, I’m bringing that mentality here.
Can you share an update on what’s happening with Go90? Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in May that the video service may be “overhyped.”
I’m 100% focused on platforms, so I don’t have much interaction with the Go90 team, which lives under Verizon. But we do follow what they do, of course, and there could be opportunities to monetize their inventory in the future.
There were publishers in the past that complained about a lack of insight into where video ads were being placed. What steps have been taken to give publishers more confidence in their placements?
We’ve always had a commitment to control and transparency for publishers. We’ve built tools into ONE for video that publishers can use themselves, regardless of where the inventory sits. They have the ability to see what inventory quality they’re getting, what percentage of it is viewable and if there’s any bot traffic there.
We do the same on the demand side, leveraging all of the verification companies everyone knows well, [including] DoubleVerify, Moat and Integral Ad Science.
We’re doing it because it’s essential. If you don’t, you won’t be part of the conversation.
What’s happening with Verizon’s data beyond the opportunity around scale?
Data can use used beyond straight targeting. It’s about insights and analytics. We can also help spear creative by leveraging data to create stronger user engagement and publisher growth. The term “art and science” is overused, but in this case, overlaying data on top of creative can be a great foundation to grow the data business.