10 Buyers and Sellers You Need to Know

The players with the biggest audiences—and those with the most dollars to spend

Illustrations: João Maio Pinto


The Sellers: Platform Companies
Perhaps it’s a sign of how in flux digital advertising remains that the backgrounds of the men (and they’re all men) charged with overseeing ad sales at the biggest Silicon Valley platform companies are so varied, 17 years after the industry began selling banners. Only one of them—Twitter’s Adam Bain—is a true native of the digital world, and his company’s the one that’s still trying to invent a revenue model for itself. There are obvious synergies in bringing someone with a television or a consumer marketing background into one of these jobs; less obvious to divine are those that draw on experience overseeing supply chain management or a government bureaucracy.

Frank Holland
Corporate vp, advertising and online business
For most of his 13 years at Microsoft, Frank Holland’s focus has been the company’s supply chain. Yes, that’s right: the new chief of Microsoft Advertising is a logistics guy.

The former corporate vp of operations, who assumed his new role in April, says his background helps him connect Microsoft’s “phone, Web, browsing, and entertainment [silos].” And, helpfully for a company whose messy structure for managing ad sales has sometimes confounded clients, Holland, married with two kids, has a reputation for having great people skills.

John Connors, Microsoft’s former CFO—who spent three years recruiting Holland from Accenture, which he joined in 1987—says Holland once volunteered, and went, to rural Montana to help his father, a county commissioner, upgrade the county’s computer system.

A history buff, Holland says, “The way I surface areas that my company might invest in is grounded in . . . what has history taught us about where we can go?” —Ki Mae Heussner

David Fischer
Vp, advertising and global operations
David Fischer was a Silicon Valley novice when he joined Google in 2003. Prior to his tech move, Fischer, now married with two children, had been a journalist and then deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department during the Clinton administration. His fresh perspective was an advantage. For instance, back then banners were the most successful form of online advertising, but he helped grow Google’s text-based AdWords.

At Facebook, which he joined in March, Fischer is part of a growing Beltway cabal that includes Marne Levine and Elliot Schrage. In fact, he followed COO Sheryl Sandberg there from Google; the two worked together at Treasury under Larry Summers.

Fischer’s political chops haven’t weakened; he’s notorious for staying on message. And his familiarity with international finance is ingrained; his father, Stanley, governor of the Bank of Israel, has also worked at the IMF and World Bank. —Erin Griffith

Adam Bain
President, revenue
Last year, Adam Bain—then president of Fox Audience Network—became so disgusted with abysmal online ad performance that he had a “Jerry Maguire-type experience,” he says, exiting the company to “do some soul searching.”

He joined Twitter in August 2010, lured by the dramatic engagement rates. He’s built Twitter’s sales headcount from 10 to more than 60, and launched Promoted Tweets, Trends, and Accounts campaigns with more than 600 marketers.

An information junkie, Bain, who’s married with two kids, says he realized early on digital would dramatically change newsrooms. He helped create, the digital arm of The Plain Dealer—Bain’s an Ohio native—some 17 years ago. Next he was at the Los Angeles Times website, followed by 13 years at News Corp.

Ross Levinsohn (up next), Bain’s former boss at News Corp., says, “I’ve always said I’d probably end up working for him one day.” —E.G.

Ross Levinsohn
Executive vp, Americas
In 1989, when Ross Levinsohn encountered CD-ROMs at HBO—where he was head of product and marketing—he thought, “Wow, here’s a way to reach, at the time, a million people directly with no middleman,” he says.

Still, in 1996, when he was approached by a new sports website based in Florida, he thought twice. “I’d just gotten married [he now has two kids], I was a born and bred New Yorker,” he says. But he signed up at Sportsline, which later became CBS Sportsline, dramatically changing the course of his career.

From there, Levinsohn went to AltaVista, and then Fox Sports, eventually becoming president of Fox Interactive Media. In 2007, he and Jonathan Miller (then recently departed from AOL) created what became Fuse Capital, a venture firm.

Levinsohn was lured away to Yahoo late last year. He’s part of the new leadership team put together by CEO Carol Bartz, charged—in tandem with Blake Irving, chief product officer—with reviving the brand. —E.G.

Neal Mohan
Vp, product management
The public face of Google in its effort to get ad dollars is in high demand. How high? Earlier this year, Neal Mohan reportedly was paid tens of millions of dollars to turn down a job offer from Twitter.

Mohan, who joined Google in 2008 as part of the company’s acquisition of DoubleClick, says it was in high school that he wrote his first big program—educational software for organic chemistry. “I know, very, very geeky,” he says.

After studying electrical engineering in Stanford in the 1990s (he returned in 2003 for an MBA), Mohan worked as a consultant with Accenture. He then joined NetGravity, one of the first companies to build ad servers for Internet publishers.

“That was well before . . . people even knew what an ad unit could or should look like,” Mohan says. “I fell in love with this mixture of technology and [its] application to media and how digital advertising was the means to kind of bridge the gap.” —K.H.

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