Oath Wants to Simplify Its Ad-Tech Offering Amid Leadership Exodus

Verizon Wireless debuts Oath Ad Platforms as speculation mounts over future of CEO Tim Armstrong

Oath has lifted the lid on its consolidated ad-tech offering with the debut of Oath Ad Platforms, a development that comes amid reports of the exit of its CEO, Tim Armstrong.

Oath Ad Platforms brings together the previously disparate ad-tech tools of the BrightRoll and Yahoo Gemini offerings, both of which came courtesy of Verizon Wireless’ 2017 Yahoo purchase, along with ONE by AOL, which it acquired in 2016, under one brand.

The newly-unveiled suite consists of two primary pillars with the rebranding exercise geared toward bringing greater clarity to Oath’s advertising offering, given the merger of AOL and Yahoo created duplication in terms of ad-tech tools. They include:

Oath Ad Platforms for Marketers:

A unified demand-side platform (DSP), supply-side platform (SSP) plus a “native and search marketplace,” bringing together inventory from multiple ad exchanges, also giving advertisers access to inventory from its owned-and-operated properties such as Yahoo Sports and MSN. Oath additionally plans to bolster advertiser demand to the platform for the DSP by offering media buyers access to connected TV inventory platform.

Oath Ad Platforms for Publishers: A suite of ad-tech tools that helps “video and broadcast publishers” better access advertiser demand using the Flurry software developer kit (SDK)–formerly a Yahoo-owned offering. The new unit further plans the roll out of an Oath Ads SDK in 2019.

In a written statement announcing the move, Armstrong described the latest iteration as “the culmination of years of experience creating world class advertising offerings” which brings new functionality to its platforms. “Oath Ad Platforms is another example of our longstanding commitment to innovation, providing a solution to today’s digital advertising challenges,” he added.

However, the announcement comes amid widespread speculation over the future of the company with The Wall Street Journal recently reporting that Armstrong is negotiating his exit from the Verizon-owned unit, citing senior sources close to the attempted roll out.

Meanwhile, separate reports have likewise claimed that Oath’s CFO, Vanessa Wittman, and communications chief Natalie Ravitz will also leave this month.

Verizon Wireless spent more than $9 billion in two separate purchases of AOL and Yahoo, with a vision of combining the pair’s media and ad-tech assets with the targeting capabilities of its customer data in a bid to rival Facebook and Google for ad spend.

However, the success of this vision has been slow with agency sources claiming Oath has yet to significantly win-over advertisers and convince them of diverting spend away from market leaders Facebook and Google.

Currently, Oath generates $7 billion to $8 billion in revenue per year for its parent company with the eventual aim of increasing this figure to $20 billion by 2020. Although not all parties share this level of enthusiasm, with a recent forecast from eMarketer asserting that Amazon poses a more realistic threat to Facebook and Google’s share of the U.S. ad market.

Speaking at a conference hosted on Friday by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Verizon Wireless CFO Matt Ellis declined to comment on the rumors of Armstrong’s supposed departure, adding,”We have no personnel announcements to make.”

He also went on to underline his confidence that the goal of Oath generating $20 billion in advertising revenue by 2020 was “still on the table.”

However, despite such public proclamations, rumors have started to swirl that Oath is underperforming expectations so much so that the telco will eventually spin off the newly formed unit.

While the announcement of Oath Ad Platforms would appear to counter these claims, the new Verizon Wireless CEO, its former CTO Hans Vestberg, has been much more inclined to trumpet his 5G ambitions for Verizon Wireless.

In an emailed statement to Adweek, Jeff Lucas, Oath, head of Americas sales and global teams, said, “From day one, we’ve been clear about our plans to simplify our offerings and bring together the best of our assets, powered by data and fueled by innovation.

“As the ad-tech ecosystem evolves, advertisers and publishers want to work with a partner who can offer a simplified suite of intelligent solutions that are available globally. That’s what Oath Ad Platforms delivers with a new offering that makes it easy for them to drive growth.”

News of the Oath Ad Platforms announcement also comes as its U.S. telco rival AT&T plans to unveil a new brand name for its advertising and analytics business later this month at a networking event hosted in Palm Springs, Calif. as it likewise attempts to pursue a media-centric future.

Speaking earlier with Adweek, Doug Brake, a telecom analyst at the think tank ITIF, said, “To some extent, their business models are converging, but they’re also taking different paths.

“Everyone is moving to a point where the pipes are increasingly commoditized, and it’s about building value on top of that large, robust broadband pipe.”