To quote Kanye, “Harder, better, faster, stronger.” This is the mentality championed by AOL’s Executive Vice President and President, AOL Content & Consumer Brands Jimmy Maymann. A triathlete from Denmark who’s impenetrably suave, Maymann’s senses about business run deeper than his impeccably fashioned exterior.
“In life there are people who are natural leaders. Jimmy is one of those rare people, with a rare skill set. He is multi faceted. He is an entrepreneur. He is a good product person. He is a very good excutive over all, and he is very sharp and intellectual,” said AOL CEO Tim Armstrong in a phone interview with VideoInk. “So, you take someone with all the attributes I just named, and put on top of the fact that [he is] a global player and international — Jimmy is a complete package type player in our industry.”
And if you ask Armstrong, he’ll remark, without doubt, how his “talent meter” was firing strong when he saw Maymann presenting at Cannes (check out the presentation which we surfaced from the deep interwebs below), about his business at the time — GoViral. GoViral, a branded content syndication and advertiser marketplace, would later be acquired, alongside Ran Harnevo’s 5Min, by AOL in 2011 for a reported $96 million in what signaled AOL’s future commitment to video.
But to understand the depth of Maymann’s vision and his climb towards becoming AOL’s global kingpin, one has to go back to 2004 when Maymann, despite sputtering internet bandwidth, believed video was the “next big thing,” a prophecy that came true when YouTube started to gain traction in 2006 and 2007.
“In the beginning we were out preaching, telling people video was the next big thing,” Maymann said in a phone interview. “With the arrival of YouTube and the halo that came with [it], suddenly everyone wanted to talk video. From my perspective that is when video became interesting.”
At the time, Maymann and his team recognized that as video heated, brands, advertisers and publishers would inevitably look to reach consumers by way of video, and would then need a marketplace to grab, exchange, distribute and track brand-driven video content, as they fought for consumer eyeballs.
In 2008, in his Cannes Lions presentation, Maymann mused about how the media business was already shifting, as television audiences became more active in engaging with video. He also remarked on the change in behavior with appointment viewing and the difficulty brands would have grabbing consumer attention. As Maymann forecast, the future was social and the evolution of the 30-second spot was imminent.
Later in 2009, again at Cannes Lions, he continued his spot-on forecasting about the disruption happening to print and online media, catching the attention of Armstrong. The two struck a strategic deal between AOL and GoViral, in what would serve as the entry point for the acquisition. GoViral and Harnevo’s 5Min were then charged with creating a foundation for and scaling AOL’s global video business.
“The cool thing is that we were two startups with a lot of ego and culture but we were able to merge our businesses globally in a very short amount of time,” said former AOL video chief Ran Harnevo, who met Maymann at a conference in Monaco while AOL was vetting GoViral for acquisition. “We were able to take their business into the U.S., and they took our business into the rest of the world.” Their businesses were early on the bell curve of change, the appetite for video was growing and, according to Harnevo, both he and Maymann wanted to disrupt the way business was being done.
“He took all of AOL’s European brands under his belt and just announced to everyone ‘we are going 90 degrees left’ and they were going to use the technologies we had,” added Harnevo. “It took me one year to try and implement and it was done within 10 days after [Jimmy] came.”
It’s a skill Maymann attributes to his athleticism and drive for excellence, to be the best, in any context. It’s a drive that took Huffington Post from being a domestic blog that had tens of millions of eyeballs to a global media company with hundreds of millions of eyeballs in over 15 markets, by the end of 2015.
“That was hard work,” said Harnevo. “JV after JV after JV, going out into other countries, bridging the cultural gap. And Jimmy was the perfect guy to get it done.”
And now, as EVP of AOL’s content brands, Maymann sits atop the organization overseeing a plan that looks to replicate the Huffington Post story. Early in Maymann’s strategy there’s been a restructuring of AOL’s approach to video. The result is a team reorg that has centralized production for the AOL-owned brands like TechCrunch and Engadget and the elimation of the “AolOn” standalone branding.
“One of the key things on my agenda is to be even more aggressive with video. It’s to globalize some of the brands that we haven’t globalized, to make sure that we are mobile centric, and take advantage of all the data across all the assets because we are touching 500 million people on a monthly basis,” said Maymann. “So video is definitely front and center for [the AOL brands] and a way of engaging the audience. We believe that if we are not video centric today as a publisher, we will fall short and our audience will go somewhere else.”
For Tim Armstrong, Maymann has made himself nearly indispensable. “Jimmy was instrumental in getting us into video, instrumental in getting the Huffington Post scale, now is instrumental in terms of us scaling our global content. So Jimmy is someone that we can continue to lean on and put more responsibly on in terms of our global ambitions as a company.”