AOL Taps Balis To Head Sales, Marketing Strategy

BalisAOL late Tuesday named Janet Balis as head of sales strategy, marketing and partnerships for AOL Advertising.

In this role, Balis will be responsible for AOL Advertising’s products and services, along with driving marketing and sales strategy across the full sales offering, including video, social, premium display and mobile formats.

Reporting directly to Ned Brody, chief revenue officer at AOL, Balis will also be expected to work closely with top ad clients and agencies and devise innovative ad partnerships. 

This is something of a homecoming for Balis, who served as SVP, sales development for AOL from 2004 to 2007, where she led the national team responsible for developing marketing solutions for clients.

Today’s AOL, however, is not the company Balis left in 2007. Now an independent entity -- having severed ties with Time Warner in 2009 -- the new AOL continues to position itself as a content leader, while rumors swirl of a possible sale or merger.

Last month, AOL head Tim Armstrong confirmed retaining two big M&A specialists -- investment banker Allen & Co, and law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz -- but said there were currently no deals on the table. He says AOL's strategy has not changed. 

Traffic to AOL sites rose just 3% in June, according to comScore, with only modest increases to its newer properties -- including the Huffington Post,  which recently set AOL back $315 million, and local Patch sites.

Regarding Patch -- arguably Armstrong's biggest long-term gamble -- AOL is presently spending about $160 million a year on the local media network, which equates to about $150,000 to run each individual Patch site annually, according to analysts.

Putting added pressure on Armstrong -- and now Balis -- home-page display ad trends at AOL remained "sluggish" through the first half of the third quarter, according to a new report from Macquarie Securities.

Balis most recently served as EVP, media sales and marketing at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she led a team of roughly 100 in sales, marketing and ad operations for all MSLO print, broadcast, and digital media assets. 

At MSLO, Balis was responsible for ad sales revenue across television, four magazines, radio, digital and mobile experiences, and also led consumer marketing initiatives on behalf of the company. 

Prior to that role, she was president of Digital Media Strategies -- a boutique advisory firm, guiding media companies and brands, including Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Communications and Warner Bros. Television, on digital strategy. 

Earlier in her career, Balis spent more than five years at Time Inc., where she led digital sales and marketing across the division’s Web sites. 


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