Tim Armstrong’s Nike Envy

AOL CEO talks shoes, tech, and better debate coverage

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong wishes his company's technology was as good as Nike's.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong wishes his company's technology was as good as Nike's.

"I think they have a better integration of their Web platform and their mobile platform than most of our properties do," he said Thursday morning during an Advertising Week panel at the Nederlander Theatre. "So I've got a problem I need to fix, and I mean that sincerely."

The discussion, titled The New York Times CEO Summit—which was moderated by the paper's advertising reporter Stuart Elliott—also featured R\GA chairman Bob Greenberg, whose agency helped Nike develop the brand's personalized-exercise-tracking Fuelband product. Armstrong's aforementioned remarks about Nike came when Elliott asked panelists what kept them up at night. Besides pining for Nike, Armstrong also shared an interesting anecdote about the success and shortcomings of AOL's coverage of Wednesday's presidential debate, which the company livestreamed.

"When I woke up this morning, our traffic was up 11 percent overall," Armstrong said. "We did about 250 million social interactions, we did 30 live events in 22 states. 30 of our properties covered it.

"I sent a note to a couple of our senior people this morning when I saw those stats and basically said, 'I went to AOL.com and we don't have all of that stuff packaged in one place,' and somebody sent an email back saying 'Calm down. Things are awesome. The company's doing well. We did a great job last night.' And I said 'You guys don't realize that the consumer has access to instant everything.'"

What does that have to do with Nike? Well, Armstrong's point was apparently meant to illustrate Nike's widely-noted success in transitioning from a traditional business to a digital one. "Nike, I think they're going to sell $1 billion or $1.5 billion in Fuelbands this year," Armstrong noted earlier in the discussion. "Nike's a company that's an offline sneaker services company that has gone into the technology space, and probably has one of the most successful, fastest growing technology businesses." The source of Armstrong's Fuelbands revenue estimate is not clear—though Greenberg did not exactly rush to correct him.

Time Inc CEO Laura Lang, AMC president and CEO Josh Sapan, and Dan Rosensweig, CEO of online textbook rental company Chegg were also on stage. The discussion covered a range of topics around the convergence of media, technology, and advertising. 


@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.