In a major coup, AOL has scored Susan Lyne, former CEO and most recently chairman of Gilt Groupe, to oversee its new Brand Group.
Having served on AOL’s board for three years, Lyne is well acquainted with its management team and brand assets.
In her new role, Lyne will be expected to grow traffic across AOL’s properties, including AOL.com and The Huffington Post, while cultivating new relationships up and down Madison Avenue.
“Our efforts center on making all of [AOL’s] brands true destinations for audiences worldwide,” Lyne said on Thursday.
The prize hire follows AOL’s decision in mid-February to begin managing its business by segments, including a Brand Group.
Prior to Gilt, Lyne served as president/CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Before that, she was president of ABC Entertainment, where she helped develop shows like “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Lyne joins AOL at a time of rising optimism for the long-struggling Web portal.
“AOL saw positive signs over the last year as a result of its continued investment in a variety of display advertising and media properties,” Clark Fredricksen, vice president of communications at eMarketer, said Thursday. “Its media offering continues to grow more valuable, which obviously puts AOL in a better position than before.”
Thanks to healthy increases in global ad revenue, AOL recently reported that fourth-quarter revenues were up 3.9% year-over-year -- to nearly $600 million -- which represented the company’s greatest sales gain in eight years.
Yet, AOL continues to see its share of display dollars slip as Google and Facebook surge further ahead, Fredricksen noted. “AOL accounted for just 3.6% of display revenues in the U.S. last year, down from 4.3% in 2011.”
Google, meanwhile, earned more U.S. display revenues than any other company in 2012, topping the overall $15 billion domestic display ad market with a 15.4% share, according to eMarketer. Facebook accounted for a slightly smaller 14.4% share of the market.
Last year, rumors swirled that AOL was preparing to sell off TechCrunch and Engadget, along with smaller assets like TUAW and Joystiq. Denying the reports, TechCrunch said at the time they stemmed from a never-executed plan by AOL executives to turn its tech properties -- including TechCrunch and Engadget -- into a separate entity, which they would have valued at around $200 million.