AOL Hires Demand Media Exec

Erika Nardini to serve as portal's liaison with top brands

AOL continues to rejigger its evolving marketing team. The Web company has nabbed industry veteran Erika Nardini, most recently at Demand Media, to assume the new role of vp, head of marketing solutions for AOL Advertising.

In the new position, Nardini will serve as the "big idea" person for brands looking to leverage all of what AOL has to offer. She’ll report to svp of AOL Advertising Jim Norton.

“If you think of AOL’s ad business as a barbell, you have programmatic buying on one end,” Norton said. “Erika helps balance that barbell. We are the brand company. And we need someone to focus on those big multimillion-dollar deals, and someone who can focus on [the] creative process and ideas. She’s got years of experience working with big brands.”

Indeed, this new role would seem to be right in Nardini’s wheelhouse. The exec is something of a Johnny Cash in the online ad world—she’s been everywhere. Having started her career in the agency world, Nardini logged stints at both Arnold and Digitas. After Digitas, Nardini worked at Microsoft as senior director of global branded entertainment, where she helped steward several of the company’s original Web content efforts, and then at Yahoo as vp of brand packaging.

In 2010 she followed former Yahoo and MSN sales chief Joanne Bradford to Demand, just as the low-cost content company’s business was set to take off. With the move to AOL, Nardini completes the portal triumvirate.

“I’m very, very passionate about content and brands," she said. "I’ve seen this business from any number of seats. For example, at Demand, we had a pretty radically different view. AOL is the full spectrum solutions for brands. We need to be able to position and package better solutions for brands, and this represented an opportunity to do that.”

Nardini’s hire also represents the latest move in an aggressive restructuring with AOL’s corporate marketing ranks. In December, AOL bounced CMO Jolie Hunt after just five months on the job, instead opting for a decentralized marketing structure. To that end, the company added another industry veteran, Jack Bamberger, in November. “We’re really building out an ad marketing solutions group,” said Norton. “It's almost our own in-house ad agency.”

Nardini’s departure could be seen as something of a blow to Demand, which saw several of its top executives leave about a year ago following an initially rocky IPO. Bradford and Nardini were said to be instrumental in helping make the Demand model palatable to traditional brand advertisers, helping attract the likes of The Home Depot, L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson.