AOL bolsters marketing biz

Kelly move another step to boost online division

NEW YORK — AOL Time Warner has named Michael Kelly, a 17-year veteran of Time Inc. and former Entertainment Weekly publisher, to head up its global marketing group. It’s a key position overseeing the cross-platform advertising that was meant to be a hallmark off the merged conglom but never took wing.

“It’s such a huge opportunity. Everyone is trying to figure it out. AOL Time Warner has given it the best try,” Kelly told Daily Variety Friday.

His appointment is the latest in a string of management changes at the media giant as it seeks to rebuilt investor confidence and bolster America Online. The Netco and its new topper Jon Miller announced a major corporate revamp Thursday.

Kelly, 45, will report to former Time Inc. topper Don Logan, the new chairman of AOL Time Warner’s Media & Communications Group.

The Global Marketing Solutions Group will work with AOL TW partners to develop and implement cross-platform marketing solutions that take full advantage of all of AOL TW’s businesses, the company said, from music, film and publishing to TV, cable and the Internet.

It’s a challenge. Divisions — or fiefdoms — of the old Time Warner haven’t historically played well in the sandbox together. And the addition of American Online may have exacerbated divisions among the various units. Furthermore, AOL’s Business Affairs unit, which was formally disbanded last week, is the target of federal probes into questionable accounting for deals with marketing and advertising partners.

Kelly has a few ideas. “The model that doesn’t work is using corporate sales and marketing as a discount mechanism. They (advertisers) don’t want a discount, they want something that works,” he said. “Rather than trying to sell them what we have, we listen to what they want,” he added.

He thinks it will help that he’s well versed in most of AOL TW’s businesses. “At Entertainment Weekly, our biggest clients were the music companies, the movie companies and the TV companies,” he said.

Asked if he’s apprehensive about joining AOL Time Warner in the midst off turmoil — including a sinking stock, investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice, shareholder lawsuits and a free fall at America Online, he said, “I voted with my feet. It seems to me that Parsons and Logan and Bewkes have a real sense of where they are taking this company.”

Investors can only hope he’s right.

Richard Parsons is AOL TW’s CEO. HBO topper Bewkes was appointed alongside Logan to oversee the conglom’s entertainment assets and TV networks.

Kelly helped launch Entertainment Weekly and was publisher from 1996 to 2000. He also served as the New York manager of Fortune magazine. Before joining Time Inc. in 1983, he was an advertising exec at the Chicago Tribune

Most recently, he was founder and chief executive of the American Town Network, a local digital media company.

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