We’re not looking to have the monopoly on women’s empowerment’ – Q&A with AOL’s Allie Kline


Following AOL’s UK launch of Makers, its online female storytelling platform, The Drum catches up with chief marketing officer Allie Kline to discuss scaling the project in the UK and how brands can celebrate women.
AOL launched its online women’s platform, Makers, in the UK this week, with contributors including musician Annie Lennox, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre.

Speaking with The Drum at an event to launch Makers in the UK during Advertising Week, Allie Kline, chief marketing officer at AOL, said the company’s focus is to scale the platform around the world through ‘authentic’ brand partnerships.
What challenges have you faced in launching the Makers brand in the UK, and what learnings have you taken from the US?

Makers has been one of the most celebrated brands in our portfolio. The biggest challenge has just been how to scale it and how quickly. It is not the type of brand that you take to any market lightly without really understanding how you can bring inspirational stories to each of those markets.

The demand for it within AOL has grown quickly over the last six months, particularly with the Microsoft partnership and Millennial Media [acquisition]. We have demand from Brazil, France, Germany and Japan, and our goal is how quickly we can scale the brand around the world.

You have partnered with Paco Rabanne for the launch of Makers UK. What are the opportunities for advertisers on the platform?

The authenticity of the brand’s purpose connected to women and girls’ empowerment is really important to us – we always encourage our brand partners to showcase stories they believe in.

If you take a look at Unilever – an early partner of Makers in the US – if you look at what they are doing with empowering women and girls, particularly around the Dove brand, those are really nice brand partnerships for us. Our hope is that the brand partners that come on board also go a long way to celebrate women connected to their own brand through Makers.

Has AOL got it right when it comes to female leadership?

There’s always more work to do. Anywhere between 45 to 55 per cent of the chief executive’s direct reports are women – our chief financial officer, our general counsel, our chief people officer, Arianna Huffington, me – that is a really powerful commitment as a company, and then we invest deeply in brands like Makers.

I’m very proud of what we’re doing within AOL, but I’m more proud of our commitment to continue doing as much as we can, not just for women but for diversity in general.

Will we see female empowerment continue as a trend with brands?

I hope so. What both Unilever and P&G have done – campaigns such as #LikeAGirl – that’s a massive weight to put behind something like this.

As a mother of two young girls, they don’t see through a lens, a race lens or a gender lens, and I hope we preserve that.

The more the merrier – we’re [AOL] not looking to have the monopoly on women’s empowerment.

Why are companies still failing to understand female capital?

I don’t think every corporation has bad intent but it takes a conscious commitment to change – it is hard, but that’s what we should do in this world.

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