Time Warner Nabs Digitas CEO Laura Lang To Fix Its Digital Sales Problem

Time Warner has named Laura Lang, CEO of digital advertising firm Digitas, as the new chief of its Time Inc. magazine unit. The company needs to grow its digital revenues and who better but the woman who has been in charge of the largest digital marketing agency in the world since 2008. ”Laura’s leadership experience, brand management experise, understanding of digital and marketing. and strong relationships with the creative and advertising communities are a great fit for Time Inc.,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said in a statement. “She is the right person to lead the company as it aggressively evolves its businesses during a time of great change and opportunity in publishing.

Time Warner is going through a difficult time. In its most recent earnings report, the magazine division saw overall revenue fall 1%. Between 2006 and 2010, Time Warner’s publishing revenue fell 30% to $3.68 billion, while adjusted operating income fell about 40% to $526 million. A number of Time Inc.’s top titles have sold fewer ad pages in 2011 than they had at this point a year ago. More and more consumers are turning to tablets to read magazines which has taken a major toll on magazine sales.  Time Inc. has planned to release tablet editions of every one of its 21 magazines by the end of the year, though a few of its most popular titles like Sports Illustrated and People have had such editions for some time.While some of its magazines, like People, remain quite successful, several others have been losing ad revenue.

Lang is most likely being brought in because she was part of the team that helped Digitas move beyond its roots in traditional junk-mail marketing, transforming it into a business that provided advertisers such as American Express Co. and General Motors Co. with electronic services like online ad targeting and splashy digital ad campaigns that run on social-media sites such as Facebook, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Lang pushed the envelope in having digital agencies play a bigger roller in the media business,” says Michael Kassan, chief executive officer of MediaLink, a media and ad consulting firm.

Time Warner already had problems when they attempted to bring in a new leader in the form of Jack Griffin who was named CEO of Time Inc., His shake-up of the company did not go well and he was promptly fired by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“In Ms. Lang, Mr. Bewkes found an executive who colleagues and friends say brings both modern business credentials and a low-key, non-confrontational approach. Her appointment takes effect in January. Unlike many advertising executives on Madison Avenue, Ms. Lang “doesn’t suck the air out of the room,” says David Kenny, a former chief executive of Digitas and current Yahoo Inc. board member. She is all about the “team” and “doesn’t have a big ego.” He added that Ms. Lang’s personality is a good fit with Time Inc. because “you need the egos to be with the editors and publishers.”

Lang is expected to bring Time Inc. beyond traditional ad pages. In some ways Time Inc. is behind in the digital landscape as other companies have already formed deals for selling magazine subscriptions on the iPad. Time Inc. has held back due to concerns it would have to give too much on issues such control over customer information.Lang said she was excited by the opportunity to figure out how to monetize Time Inc.’s titles amid significant changes in consumer and advertiser behavior. “I’ve been doing that my whole career,” she says. ”I’ve always been inclusive and collaborative,” Ms. Lang said in another interview. “I also know how to make decisions. One does not preclude the other.”


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