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Profile: Robert Friedman

Sep 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Robert Friedman is wasting no time putting his enthusiasm for AOL TV to work in his new role as president of AOL Interactive Marketing.
The former AOL TV president already is focused on cutting deals that will attract more advertisers to the evolving AOL TV interactive service by offering them a split-screen approach.
Mr. Friedman, whose marketing and promotions career has included stints at The Movie Channel, MTV Networks and New Line Cinema, now oversees a streamlined AOL interactive marketing staff of about 600 as part of a companywide reorganization. His mandate is to grow the advertising and e-commerce revenues, which contribute one-quarter of the company’s income.
EM: How will you integrate AOL TV into what you do?
Mr. Friedman: We’re integrating AOL TV into this interactive marketing group because many advertisers have said they want to play in the space. We’ve decided to create a two-screen experience, in addition to the one-screen experience, so that advertisers can try it and learn more about it.
EM: Will that be a second full screen or a split screen?
Mr. Friedman: It will be a second screen that is part of the AOL TV entertainment area that users click to for functionality-like chatting, e-mail, ordering movie tickets or merchandise.
EM: How will you price that feature?
Mr. Friedman: We haven’t priced it yet, and we don’t have a rate card. It’s difficult to do with new media. It will evolve. We’re going to package this with existing online relationships. A lot depends on the advertisers and how they are using it.
EM: How soon does that start?
Mr. Friedman: We’re beginning to change the screens now, and before the end of the year we’ll make some of these experiences synchronous in a lot of different places. It will be available over cable or through the AOL TV box. We’re working closely with the cable group and other company businesses to integrate AOL TV functionality into the next-generation cable box. The endplay of AOL TV will be personalized television.
EM: What are the challenges of assuming this role during an ad slump?
Mr. Friedman: It’s an opportunity. We’re living in a world with a lot of clutter. The average customer is spending 15 to 17 hours a month online, with the highest users spending 50 hours a month online. So the online community is real. There are 30-plus million homes and 60-plus million users just on AOL. But marketplace clutter was never worse and is difficult for marketers to cut through. That makes a soft market a great time to use interactivity to create relationships with target consumers.
The challenge is understanding our partners’ businesses so that we can put the inventory on top that is valuable to them-it could be chat, e-mail, online, in print or television-as part of an entire solution that is customized just for them.
Personal banking, retail or shopping and entertainment are three of the categories best positioned to take advantage of it.