A CMO’s View: AOL CMO Says Content Marketing Is About Value, Not Advertising

Since being named CMO in January, Allie Kline has led the launch of Partner Studio by AOL, an in-house custom content creation division.

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This past January, Allie Kline was named CMO for AOL Inc. after leading marketing efforts for the AOL Platforms family of brands. She now oversees all global marketing strategy for AOL’s corporate initiatives, advertising platforms and content marketing solutions group.

Since being named CMO, Kline has helped launched Partner Studio by AOL, an in-house custom content studio that combines data, distribution and content to deliver branded content programs for AOL advertisers.

“This delicate balance of culture and code is at the core of all that we do at AOL, it was a no-brainer to be able to offer the same combination to our customers when it comes to content marketing,” says Kline.

“This delicate balance of culture and code is at the core of all that we do at AOL…” — Allie Kline, CMO

Prior to joining AOL, Kline served as CMO for 33Across, a big data and social graph company, and was the vice president of marketing for Brand Affinity Technologies, overseeing the endorsement platform’s marketing. In November of last year, Kline was awarded the 2014 ad:tech Industry Achievement Award.

When asked to name her favorite AOL content marketing campaign, Kline told us that was like asking a parent to pick her favorite child.

“Each campaign is unique and winning in its own way,” says Kline, “Partner Studio by AOL works hard at making sure that each of our customers feel that their brand’s campaign pushes new limits and deepens their consumer relationships and affinity.”

While we couldn’t get Kline to name a favorite, she did answer every question we had about AOL’s content marketing efforts and what the company is doing to create winning content marketing strategies for clients.

Get To Know:

Allie Kline



A strategy that balances culture and code is crucial to brand success now more than ever.

Take control of your data, take risks, test out new platforms, and select partners that help you tie all of these efforts together.

Today’s audience can spot inauthenticity a mile away. Content marketing is about adding value to consumers, not advertising to them. Do that.


Amy Gesenhues: What role does content marketing play in AOL’s overall marketing strategy?

Allie Kline: At AOL, we market to consumers but also have a large B2B marketing arm that helps brands and content owners achieve their marketing goals through content marketing and programmatic platforms.

Now more than ever, content marketing plays a large role in all brands’ strategies, and we believe it is the ying to programmatic’s yang — an increasingly important investment that brands must make to engage consumers and authentically communicate a brand’s purpose.

Earlier this summer we launched Partner Studio by AOL, our in-house custom content studio that is based on the premise that data, distribution and content must be intertwined in order to maximize a brand’s full online and offline potential.

Creating great content is impossible without an understanding of your audience. And getting content to cut through the clutter is impossible without open partnerships and industry leading distribution.

Amy Gesenhues: Can you give us a rundown of the AOL’s most popular types of content marketing and distribution systems?

Allie Kline: Video is a key pillar of our marketing strategy and those of our brand and agency customers.

We distribute premium video content through our video network, our partner blogger network, 16 OTT platforms, and key partnerships like NBCUniversal and The Players’ Tribune to reach audiences across every device, in every format, at every time of day.

Brands partner with us to co-create or curate from this wide variety of content and formats through Partner Studio.

Brands are given the opportunity to work directly with our team to customize their custom content campaign from a range of ad formats, custom videos, editorial content such as listicles, photo galleries and more.

Dixie’s #DarkForDinner Video Campaign from AOL Partner Studio

From there, we use the power of ONE by AOL to distribute the content across our ad platform, including on our own sites, AOL.com, The Huffington Post, MAKERS, Techcrunch, and also, of course, across our video network.

Amy Gesenhues: Do you have a specific team that manages AOL’s content marketing efforts?

Allie Kline: Yes, we have a central team that manages our own content marketing programs.

Our marketing team ensures that we have an overarching strategy that spans across our product pillars to communicate a cohesive and consistent message in market. The team will agree that this is easier said than done considering the number of products that AOL has and the rapid rate of transformation across the industry, and even within our own company as of late.

As the industry continues to move at a breakneck pace, the guiding light and mandate for all content produced is to put our clients at the center of all our efforts and create value for them every day.

For our brand and agency customers, our content marketing services and offerings come through the newly created Partner Studio by AOL team and our goal is simple — bring our clients the very best in creativity married with the very best in technology and data to engage their customers in unique and entertaining ways.

Amy Gesenhues: How do you measure your content marketing’s success?

Allie Kline: As many content marketers know, this question is a complicated one to answer. There hasn’t been a standardized way to measure the effectiveness of content marketing, but we’re setting out to change that!

We had a hunch in 2013 that content marketing would explode, and now our Consumer Analytics & Research team has insights mined from over 40 branded content marketing programs with 250 content activations and more than 43,000 consumer experiences.

We’ve created the largest normative database of content marketing results in the industry to prove what success really means. The first installation of those results is published in our recent white paper, The Alchemy of Connection.

Amy Gesenhues: Can you share any recent client content marketing campaigns created by AOL?

Allie Kline: A recent client campaign that is actually still running across our network is work that we are doing with Georgia Pacific.

We are working with the CPG giant to bring to life six of their portfolio brands in a campaign that focuses on the principles that no two parents are the same, but they all can agree on one thing — family comes first. The widespread program sets out to celebrate the many unique trials and tribulations of parenting while offering support to hardworking parents who are trying to find balance and serenity in their daily lives.

The campaign covers a wide range of online activations including native advertising, branded entertainment, contributor content, premium format display ads, and social media and is Georgia Pacific’s deepest endeavor into the marriage of programmatic technology and custom content to date.

Amy Gesenhues: What about personalization? How does AOL personalize its content marketing?

Allie Kline: As any marketer will tell you, the connection and level of engagement that a brand has with its customers is crucial to the success of a custom content campaign.

Brands have the unique opportunity to leverage all that they understand about their audience and cater to them directly. AOL does this through targeting technology and best in class data that spans legacy demographics and psychographics all the way through multi-touch attribution that reveals the true drives of consumer behavior and brand ROI.

We’ve invested in understanding why audiences consume content and specifically, the deeper motivations, behaviors and actions they take with content. This informs the programs that we develop with brands to speak to their audience and effectively communicate their story — whether that’s to inspire, entertain or otherwise.

It’s all about creating smarter marketing through content rooted in data and distributed to the right audience at the right time through technology.

Amy Gesenhues: Can you share more on the role video and mobile play within AOL’s content marketing strategy?

Allie Kline: Video and mobile have exploded and show no signs of slowing down. There is very little we do in the content marketing or programmatic space that doesn’t include one or the other or both.

We are working with brands every day to determine how they can best use custom video solutions to reach their audiences and how mobile should be a key part of these programs, whether this means creating an app to complement the overall mission or using mobile ads to reach a targeted audience. We call this strategy Content 365 — content made in every format, on every device, for every audience, every day.

We push out a lot of content across our owned and operated sites and syndication platforms. We work with our partners to align with that content, whether that’s through brand integration, co-creation of original content, sponsored curated content or otherwise.

With our recent acquisition by Verizon and key partnerships like Microsoft and NBCUniversal, we’d put our premium mobile and video capabilities up against any competitor in the industry. But that’s a larger story….

Amy Gesenhues: What has AOL learned about audiences from its content marketing efforts?

Allie Kline: Audiences consume content for many different reasons, and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. The success is in the foundational layer of revealing data.

Brands must align their content efforts to address consumers’ motivations for viewing content in order to speak to them effectively. For AOL, that means developing content programs rooted in consumer insight and market trends — across every device and format.

Amy Gesenhues: How do you see AOL’s content marketing strategy evolving in the coming years?

Allie Kline: The advertising industry overall is coming up on what I call an “era of disruption.” There are too many fragmented players in the landscape that over-complicate the space for advertisers and drain their resources.

We believe the market will further consolidate and many of the players left standing will continue to create closed ecosystems that lock brands and consumers in, so to speak. We believe this approach is bad for the market and discourages innovation.

Our content and programmatic platforms are “open” by design to let brands use our solutions, bring in third-party solutions, data and new innovations. Our goal is to simplify the market for our customers without compromising the control they have over their own data and creative tool-set.

(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)


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