FIM Kills One Unit, Forms Another to Refine Brand and Performance Sales

Fox Interactive Media is revamping its ad sales and operations structure in the hopes of grabbing more premium brand ad dollars and optimizing performance-based advertising. A new Audience Network division has been created to handle performance ad optimization and operations, effectively shuttering the Revenue Group. The new division also will handle deals with third party publishers, whom it hopes to convince to deploy FIM’s HyperTargeting platform.

FIM’s former EVP of technology and production, Adam Bain, will head the Audience Network, putting to use his experience in assisting in the acquisition and integration of ad optimization firm Strategic Data Corporation. Bain, who started his stint with the company as VP production and development at FOX Sports Interactive, will continue to report to FIM President Peter Levinsohn. The network group encompasses performance-based ad sales, operations, serving and technology development.

Bain’s group will deploy the HyperTargeting ad platform, built with SDC’s technology, across FIM properties. The system uses data gleaned from MySpace profiles and other company sites to target display ads to hundreds of niche audience segments. According to FIM, at least 750 segments currently exist. The company aims to put that technology to use on other publisher properties, too. This could mean either selling it to other sites or using it to build an ad network, allowing FIM to purchase and serve ads into third party inventory.

The new division will also lead development of a self-serve ad platform in the works for MySpace, which has been delayed. The company expects to launch that product, aimed at smaller advertisers, by the end of June.

In addition to creating new revenue streams through extension of its targeting platform, FIM hopes to generate more dollars from brand advertisers. Hence the decision to reposition brand ad salespeople within individual product units such as IGN Entertainment and Fox Sports, rather than keeping them lumped together in the now defunct Revenue Group. This means salespeople will work hand in hand with product development teams to better integrate premium ad opportunities such as sponsorships or custom offerings. For instance, the head of IGN Entertainment Sales will now report to IGN GM Roy Bahat. No changes are expected for product group leadership, according to FIM.

“Our individual business units have evolved to a point where it is clear they are best served by dedicated professionals who live and breathe those products alone,” said FIM President Peter Levinsohn in a memo to company staff. “By integrating the sales teams in this way,” he continued, “each operating unit will be empowered to assume responsibility for its revenue, growth and profitability.”

The dissolution of the Revenue Group unseats the head of that unit, chief revenue officer Michael Barrett. He is expected to leave FIM two months after the restructuring. Although FIM is still sorting out the internal changes, it does not expect any former Revenue Group employees to be laid off as a result.

FIM is one of many large online media firms moving pieces on its chessboard to keep up with advertiser needs and shifts in media consumption. Recognizing the need to expand reach, increase ad yield, and create more performance-based and higher-CPM ad opportunities, firms like AOL and Yahoo are also undergoing structural changes. AOL, for example, is folding its advertising properties, including ad network powerhouse, behavioral targeting firm Tacoda and mobile ad network Third Screen Media, into its Platform A unit, created last year. However, because FIM essentially has separated its brand ad operation from its new performance advertising and platform services division, the firm considers its approach much different from AOL’s.

Yahoo is also expanding its reach and ad management services by building a local network with a growing list of newspaper publishers in the hopes of competing directly with AOL. A broadened FIM network and competitive ad platform service could pose a new threat to AOL and Yahoo, as ad network behemoth Google sharpens its own display advertising and ad management teeth.

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