Bob Lord may be leaving Publicis Groupe's Razorfish to run AOL Networks but, given a new partnership between Publicis Groupe and AOL, his ties to his former employer will remain strong.
On Aug. 1, Lord, the outgoing CEO of Razorfish, starts as CEO of AOL Networks, the company's programmatic ad buying arm. Essentially, he fills a vacancy left by the April exit of Ned Brody, who departed AOL abruptly in April—seemingly to run sales at Yahoo, someday. At the onset, though, Lord will have more responsibility, as he'll lead management of PAL, the new Publicis Groupe-AOL partnership.
The goal of the partnership is to give marketers new ways to brand their products in real time on the Web. The thinking: AOL supplies the platforms via the array of online publishers, including its namesake site and The Huffington Post, and Publicis Groupe brings the brands. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy describe the global venture as "live advertising."
"Live advertising is the future of marketing on the Internet," said Armstrong, in a statement. "Maurice and Publicis Groupe have been at the forefront of live advertising and we have been testing live advertising together for more than a year. Based on the consumer and brand demand, we formed PAL and identified Bob to manage a cross-agency team that will aggressively build out the first live advertising platform for the Internet."
The cross-agency team comprises Rishad Tobaccowala, chairman of Razorfish and DigitasLBi; Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group; and Tom Bernardin, CEO of Leo Burnett. They'll serve as co-chairs of the partnership along with Lord.
"Together, AOL and Publicis Groupe have impressive scale, talent and technology solutions, and a deep understanding of how to develop and drive content," Levy said, in a statement of his own. "By creating a shared development team … we can ensure advertising and marketing travel at the speed of consumers."
The venture moves from its testing to launch phase on Sept. 1, when it will be offered to Publicis Groupe clients exclusively for a six-month period. Top clients of the holding company's agencies include Toyota, Procter & Gamble and General Motors.
Taking Lord's old job at Razorfish is Pete Stein, who had been president of Razorfish East. At the same time, Shannon Denton, president of the central U.S. division of Razorfish, becomes simply CEO of Razorfish USA. Tobaccowala's role as chairman of both Razorfish and DigitalLBi is also new. Stein will report to him.
AOL Networks was formed in February; it is essentially a roll up of the the company's ad network business Ad.com and its growing suite of ad tech businesses. Armstrong has talked quite openly about moving AOL away from selling commodity banners by embracing machine-driven selling. In that respect, he has publicly positioned AOL as a challenger to Google in the ad tech arena.
The Lord hire is also another example of Armstrong's willingness to shake things up among his executive ranks. For example, in February, he brought on former ABC programming executive Susan Lyne as AOL's new CEO of its Brand Group.