What on Oath: Global adtech platform chief reveals market plans following AOL-Yahoo merger

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Tim Mahlman
Tim Mahlman

An open and integrated platform approach, verified first-party audience data and content investment lie at the heart of Oath’s plans to shake up the adtech platform space, its global product technology chief claims.

Oath president of adtech platforms, Tim Mahlman, caught up with CMO during a recent visit to Sydney to reveal the group’s modus operandi, what it’s really going to take to bring AOL and Yahoo! together, and how the combined entity plans to carve a deeper etched position for itself against next-generation platform goliaths, Facebook and Google.

Oath is the umbrella brand Verizon has created to sit across its wide cluster of 50 brands in the media, Internet portal and ad technology space. The official launch of Oath at Cannes in June followed completion of Verizon’s US$4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo!. Other well-known brands in the portfolio are HuffPost, TechCrunch, Brightroll, Flurry, Tumblr and Engadget.

Verizon acquired AOL in 2015 for US$4.4 billion. Combined, Oath represents more than 1 billion people globally and is headed up by former AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong.

In his worldwide role, Mahlman oversees the technology Oath licences for advertising agencies and brands, along with products such as its supply-side platform for publishers, acquired attribution modelling tool, Convertro, and programmatic linear TV product, One:TV. He joined AOL after the ISP acquired his startup, Vidible.

Mahlman boasts of more than 20 years in the online advertising space globally with a resume that also includes Klout, Livefyre, elicit, Collective Media and BlueLithium. Earlier in his career, he worked as VP of network sales at Yahoo!, taking charge of the company’s $500 million performance display advertising division.

Brand balance

The first thing Mahlman stressed was Oath’s plans to respect its 50-plus brands.

“The Yahoo! brand, especially in Australia, is going nowhere,” he told CMO. For one, the group is still committed to its joint venture with Seven West Media on Yahoo7 but will look to enhance the product mix further. “The AOL brands, from a platform perspective, are also not going anywhere in the near term.

“The thinking behind ‘Oath’ was looking at the values that drive this business. It’s the idea of saying we’re making a commitment and promise to still invest in brands people love. There is such great loyalty behind those brands, we don’t want to slow that down. We want to invest in them even more and make them stronger.”  

Yet it’s clear there’s an intention to leverage different components across brands to create a better offering for all. As an example, Mahlman pointed to a deal struck between Yahoo and HuffPost teams that now sees HuffPost content on Yahoo’s homepage.

“Just three weeks after launch, it’s created this massive lift in engagement for both the homepage as well as viewership within HuffPost,” he said. “That’s an example of two companies that have never worked with each other now that by being under the umbrella, equally benefit.”

Single adtech stack

Consolidation is also the objective on the adtech front. The company has built a roadmap to pool technologies offered by AOL, Yahoo and their subsidiaries into one single adtech stack.

“The industry has looked at AOL and Yahoo as two competing companies. Yet if you look at both companies from a platform standpoint, there was only about 5 per cent overlap with clients with certain products,” Mahlman said.

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