Looking to further merge the advertising and publishing sides of its business, AOL has named Tim Mahlman president of AOL Platforms. His first day is today.
Mahlman—who will lead a team of 1,400 engineers, product developers, and sales and client service employees—was previously global head of AOL's publisher technology platform. Before joining AOL, he ran Vidible, a video content exchange platform acquired that he founded and that was acquired by AOL in 2014. Prior to Vidible, he worked at Yahoo as vp of network sales where he oversaw more than $500 million in performance display advertising.
In an interview, Mahlman said the focus will be increasingly global with an emphasis on mobile, data and video. Mahlman is replacing former AOL president Bob Lord, who left the company to join IBM as chief digital officer in April.
"What [AOL CEO Tim Armstrong] was looking for was to have someone to step in and add more focus specifically around the platform—the platform we have for the demand side and also for the supply side," Mahlman said. "By having one person create focus around this was really the next evolution of how we were wanting to take AOL."
As president of AOL Platforms, Mahlman will be tasked will accelerating the company's development in the next phase of product innovation, growth and scale. When he joined through the Vidible acquisition, Mahlman said there were six different AOL companies operating with separate profit and loss reports. To fix that, AOL created AOL One for Publishers, which allowed the subsidiaries to interact and prompted Armstrong to wonder how to do that for advertising products as well.
At its NewFronts event last month, AOL laid out a vision for its more than 20 brands, focusing on each one more than on the AOL publisher brand as a whole. At the time, executives in interviews said the bottom-up approach will better allow for advertisers to pair with the best-fitting publishing vertical.
"[Armstrong] likes to call it a 'house of brands,'" Mahlman said. "The TechCrunch, HuffPo and the like are a house of brands, and then the platform itself is also a house of a brand, and so for me, the demand and the supply sides are still going to run as business units, but with me overseeing it allows us for the first time to go to a publisher or to an advertiser and leverage both platforms."
Verizon, which acquired AOL a year ago for $4.4 billion, will play a key role in Mahlman's vision as well. The data provided by Verizon is the ground floor for building a mobile and global publishing powerhouse. (There's also the possibility that the combined company could get even bigger, with Verizon reportedly in the final rounds of bidding for Yahoo's web assets.)
To support Mahlman's efforts, AOL also has promoted Matt Gillis to the role of svp of Publisher Platforms and Jay Seideman to svp of Advertising Platforms.
Next week, Mahlman will head to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity—the advertising industry's biggest awards festival—and will make his pitch to the international advertisers that make up an increasingly bigger part of AOL's overall business. He said AOL, which is now in 22 countries around the world, plans to make an even bigger global push.
"You have all of the world coming and celebrating creative," he said. "That is going to be a big piece for AOL, because Platforms, many people think it's just a bunch of dumb pipes. But there is an art to this, there is an innovation behind it."