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AOL marketing exec to head new unit

Myer Berlow, a marketing executive at the America Online division, will head a new group charged with coordinating ad sales across all of its brands.

As part of an ongoing executive reorganization, AOL Time Warner has created a new group to coordinate advertising sales across the media giant's myriad of businesses.

The company said Friday that Myer Berlow, a top-level marketing executive at its America Online division, will become president of the Global Marketing Solutions group. Berlow is charged with developing ways for advertisers to deliver their messages across the company's many brands.

Since the AOL-Time Warner merger was announced, company executives have been touting the ways in which advertisers can buy packages that span across its online, print, broadcasting and cable units.

"It is a one-two punch, and that was always the goal and always the vision of the merger," Berlow said.

Indeed, AOL Time Warner has consistently promoted the idea that the $147 billion merger offers advertisers a way to reach different audiences. Berlow said the Global Marketing Solutions group will streamline use of the company's resources for advertisers, allowing them to do everything from using online elements from the company's AOL division to pulling songs for an ad from its copyright vault.

Companies that have already signed on for "full-media" advertising deals include eBay, Compaq Computer, WorldCom, Nortel Networks, Bank of America and Samsung.

Friday's move comes a day after the company named Time Warner Cable CEO Joseph Collins to head its newly formed Interactive Video division. AOL Time Warner is also preparing to lay off hundreds of employees in its online division as part of overall cost-cutting measures, according to people close to the matter. The layoffs could happen as early as next week.

Berlow will report to AOL Time Warner Co-Chief Operating Officer Bob Pittman and will also answer to the company's Advertising Council, an assembly of representatives from its different businesses formed to develop cross-company ad campaigns. The Ad Council is headed by AOL Time Warner Executive Vice President Mayo Stuntz.

AOLTV changes channels
Additionally on Friday, the company named Robert Friedman to replace Berlow as the head of sales and marketing for the AOL division. Friedman was tapped in April to head AOLTV. He remains president of that unit and continues to report to AOL Chief Executive Barry Schuler.

Friedman, formerly an executive at New Line Cinema, said in an interview that the next step for AOLTV will be to make AOL's online members familiar with the AOLTV interface.

AOLTV is AOL's attempt to enter the interactive-TV fray, an area also pursued by Microsoft with its MSN TV. AOLTV is sold as a component that hooks into a TV set and a phone line. The service makes popular AOL features, such as e-mail, chat and instant messaging, accessible through the TV. It also serves up an interactive program guide.

Later this fall, AOL will launch a new area in its online service that will replicate AOLTV's interface for members. The initiative is one element in a series of enhancements designed to boost the appeal of AOLTV and increase sales of the device.

"It's a way to get people used to the interface," Friedman said. "And those advertisers who want to take advantage of the (AOLTV) space...we can bridge the gap for them."

It's unclear how well AOLTV units have sold since they launched in June 2000. AOL recently reduced the price of the units to $99 from $199 in Circuit City stores. AOLTV has maintained a $14.95 monthly subscription fee on top of the standard monthly AOL membership fee of $23.90.

AOL has not released any sales numbers for the units, and analysts said they can only guess its sales figures. Mark Snowden, an analyst at Gartner, estimated sales of "well under 100,000."

"If they were doing well, I'd think they'd be more forthcoming about it," Snowden said. "It's not surprising, because (MSN TV) has never done that well either, and it's a very similar sort of service."

Nevertheless, Friedman remained upbeat about AOLTV's prospects and his own. The inheritance of Berlow's former domain means the task of increasing AOL's advertising and e-commerce revenue will fall into Friedman's hands. Much of the growth will come from working with other units and Berlow.

"It's like a marriage," Friedman said. "I've worked in every area of AOL Time Warner, and everyone's on board to cooperate."