Short to Exit America Online

LOS ANGELES Len Short is leaving his day-to-day responsibilities at America Online where he has served as executive vice president of brand marketing for little more than a year, the company confirmed. He will continue doing projects for AOL.

Short’s departure comes on the heels of AOL’s decision earlier today to retain incumbent Interpublic Group’s Initiative as the media planning and buying agency for its estimated $300 million account. The client is now expected to spend in excess of $200 million, according to sources. The Interpublic Group company successfully defended the account against Aegis Group’s Carat in the final round.

Richard Taylor, who had been senior vice president of promotions, is taking on the role of svp of brand advertising and promotions, reporting to chief marketing officer Joe Redling. Speculation about Short’s status at AOL started last week when pitches in the media review were rescheduled at the last minute at the behest of Redling, who is Short’s boss. Sources said that Redling was deeply involved in the final pitches.

During his tenure at the Time Warner unit, Short worked on raising the visibility and the subscription base for the struggling online service, which has seen its domestic subscriptions drop as users defect for broadband services. His moves while there include replacing Interpublic’s Gotham with Omnicom Group’s BBDO and independent Wieden + Kennedy, adding Digitas to its roster for online media, and holding a media review.

Short was also involved in AOL’s sponsorship of the Super Bowl half-time show, which exploded into controversy following Janet Jackson’s breast-baring incident. An AOL executive said that had nothing to do with Short’s departure. “Nobody is holding Len responsible for the Janet Jackson moment,” the executive said.