Falco 1 on 1: How the Net is Different

As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AOL LLC, Randy Falco is responsible for setting strategy and overseeing the businesses and operations of this global web services company. Falco joined AOL in November 2006 from the NBC Universal Television Group where he was President and Chief Operating Officer.

Editor's note: Don't miss our coverage of Randy Falco's opening keynote address at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coconut Point, Florida.

Brad Berens:  First of all, congratulations on the new job.

Randy Falco: Well, thank you very much. 

Berens: You have been doing it for about a month now, or two months?

Falco: Just shy of two months.

Berens: Let me just dive right in. The question on everybody's minds is: what do you think of your new job? Why did you do it? What are you bringing to the table? And, what is the thing that scares you the most?

Falco: First, everything about the new job excites me: the strength of the AOL brand, the size and the scope of the business, the increasing power and relevance of the internet as a marketing tool. And, in terms of what I bring-- I think I bring a healthy appreciation of how to partner with brand marketers to help them achieve their goals of brand awareness and moving product. I also understand how important the consumer is to the overall equation, and how the internet can help marketers learn more about their customers.

Berens: For what you said about consumers, the old days of marketing -- which are pretty much from when marketing started until, really, just the last few years -- have been that marketing is kind of a one-way street.

Falco: That is right.

Berens: And now -- and this is the big difference with the internet -- not only can the consumer, can the audience, talk back to the marketer -- to the media property, to the publisher -- they can also talk amongst themselves. With your long and prestigious career at NBC, and in television, how is the difference in audience behavior online a new complication for you? 

Falco: I view it much more as an opportunity than a threat. For too long, marketers have been like publishers, if you will. They've had a one-way conversation with their customers. The strength the internet gives us is that you now can have a two-way conversation with your customer. You can learn more about that customer, what their wants and needs are. 

I believe that marketers, going forward, are going to have to give up a little bit of the control that they have always had, in terms of their messaging. And, if they trust in the consumer, ultimately, to help them with that messaging -- to share the messaging and the brand awareness -- it will be a very exciting environment for marketers going forward.

Berens: Here at iMedia, we have a mission: to advance the cause of interactive within all marketing. We are boosters for interactive. And certainly, having (as I said) such a prestigious television person as yourself come into the internet and be one of our advocates is fantastic! And so, the question I am leading to is this: we still have a lot of resistance to people working within interactive. Since you have an unusual attitude, and since you are seeing interactive as an opportunity rather than as a challenge, I am wondering if you might be able to characterize why that resistance exists?

Falco: I think that marketers in general, frankly, just like broadcasters in general, are traditionalists. They are used to having one-way conversations with their consumers. Going forward, if they are willing to give up a little bit of control, and have a little trust in the wisdom of their customers, then they will find that they will open up for themselves an unprecedented amount of information about their customers.

Berens: It just happens to be a lot more work than buying a thirty-second spot on television, figuring you are going to reach a few million people, and then calling it a day.

Falco: There is no question about that. But the ROI equation is going to become increasingly important to marketers. And, they are going to find that the extra work is going to have an appreciable, bigger payback than just buying a thirty-second spot.

Next: Is the internet more than a DR medium?