A Lesson in Integration from Oath CMO Allie Kline

allie klineIn June, Verizon completed its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo. The telco went on to combine Yahoo and AOL, creating an online services division called Oath. Cynopsis Digital’s David Teich spoke with Allie Kline, Oath’s CMO, to get a sense of how that transition is going – and what other companies can learn from it. 

Cynopsis: When plans to form the Oath division first became known, some observers were confused as to whether or not Yahoo and AOL themselves would be rebranded. It was later clarified that this was mostly happening on the business side – the brands would keep their identities. Still, how has the formation of Oath changed things overall?

Allie Kline: The brands and the portfolio still deeply operate like unique assets targeting very unique audiences. But there is quite a bit of collaboration going on across teams, because we’re doing a lot of the same stuff. We’re leveraging things like live experiences and video. We’re putting an emphasis on mobile and global scale. There’s shared experience and learning across the brands. But they absolutely all still do come at the market in a very individual way.

Cynopsis: From a marketing perspective, what was the biggest challenge when it came to launching Oath?

Kliine: It’s twofold. You have to ask, how do you keep your foot on the gas for consumer acquisition for the brands? And in a way that’s very unique and specific to each brand? Because it’s so important that the business keeps growing during a big integration. If you just think of it as, “well, we’re going to integrate for a year,” then your business starts to decline because all you’ve been doing is integrating. Ours is a team, like several of the groups, where you’re integrating and getting to know each other while you’re actually doing the work – which is a challenge out of the gate culturally. But actually it’s a really, really strong way for people to go about integrating. Because it takes the focus off of, “whose process are we following, one company’s or another’s? Whose approach is better?” You’ve got to focus on the work. You’ve got to stay really focused on driving results.

Cynopsis: “Fake news” is a phrase that’s thrown about a lot now. How do you avoid being associated with that?

Kline: Well, we’re sitting amidst Pulitzer prize-winning journalistic brands. We have over a billion users. We ask ourselves, what’s the target audience that we’re going after? Where are they engaging in real conversations? And how can we be part of that conversation, and add content-based value to their experience? We have the luxury of being a content creator, with the trust of a massive audience around the world. So when you put those things together, there’s a much higher probability for authenticity and not getting sucked into that vortex.

Cynopsis: What do you think the future holds? And what advice would you give to other media companies?

Kline: I think the trust gap that we’re seeing this century, around the world, is only going to increase. And the value and importance of brands, and the value and importance of content creation, and content curation, is only going to increase. I think this is the tip of the iceberg. And so if you’re only making a platform play, with no curation, or no authentic voice, or no original content, I think that’s a very challenging place to be. That doesn’t mean that every media company needs to go out and hire ten thousand journalists. But it does mean that how you approach corporate development and partnerships is going to be critical going forward. How you ensure and look at what’s happening on your platforms is going to be increasingly important. It’s fortunate to have a head start on that, just on the basis of our business and our structure, but at the same time that gap is only going to get bigger.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at Lynn@Cynopsis.com.

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