AOL Reorgs Sales Around Global Categories

Jim Norton's role expanded

AOL says brands are finally ready to do more than pay lip service to going global. So it’s reorienting its sales service to help better capture those global dollars.

Jim Norton, who was previously svp of AOL Advertising, has been named the company’s new head of global media sales. Norton will not only look to push the company toward more international mega deals with big brands, but is also planning to lead the company into a more category-centric approach.

Indeed, AOL is establishing a new position, the cdo (category development officers); the portal has brought in five execs to serve in these new roles as they attempt to build deep knowledge and relationships in specific product verticals.

The new cdos include John Gregory, a former marketing exec at Bloomingdale's, Ann Taylor/Loft and Macy's who will oversee AOL’s retail business; Paul Kadin, who logged time at Citi, Chase and Dreyfus, and now runs AOL’s efforts in the finance category; and Scott Kelliher, formerly of Virgin Mobile, who now heads up AOL’s tech sales group.

In addition, ex-Toyota group vp Steve Strum is AOL’s autos cdo, while Mike Merna, late of Pfizer, is the cdo for packaged goods.

AOL of course is hardly the first sales organization to debate whether to organize sales around particular agencies, clients or categories (a similar reorg was contemplated during the brief Greg Coleman era). And half of the agency world seemed to ad global officers of some kind over the past year, as did many publishers—but outside of a few huge brands, true global campaigns have been elusive.

Norton says that’s changing fast., in part because of technology.

“Customers are asking for and more global strategy, and fewer and fewer partners,” Norton said. “Complexity is leading to compression. And there are fewer people that can be good at both.”

Norton said that AOL is working with close to 40 global accounts, and the plan is to grow that number quickly. He says that agencies are also pushing this shift, as evidenced by the Publicis-Omnicom merger.

But agency organizational models, as well as most publishers’ structure and processes, still make global tough. “A lot of this is very challenging in our industry,” said Norton.

Here’s a memo from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong detailing the changes:

AOLers  –

Advertising is an area that AOL has increasingly gained strength in – we have great products and a very strong sales team.  Our customers are looking for fewer, bigger partners and they are looking for partners with a global strategy on global platforms.  The work we have done to rebuild our products and platforms is a highlight for the company and our barbell strategy has become one of the successful models in our industry.

But success starts with our ability to drive change and to lead – and today we are promoting one of the best leaders we have at the company to lead our push into globalizing our advertising business and partnerships.  Jim Norton has been promoted to  Head of Global Media Sales for AOL and he will be responsible for our global sales strategy and structure.  Jim will be working closely with our brand leaders and with Graham Moysey who leads our International business.

Since joining AOL in 2009, Jim has re-architected AOL's sales approach and go to market strategy to optimize revenue across AOL's leading property and platform solutions. His category-led sales infrastructure and agency development practice have allowed AOL to pioneer strategic partnerships and innovative cross-platform marketing solutions across all the global agency holding companies and with Fortune 500 clients. Jim has also driven growth across all advertising revenue lines, including video, O+O display and network, a combination that is delivering great consumer experiences and successful customer results.