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Mar 14th 2012
This is the second post in our series profiling incredible women at AOL in honor of "Women's History Month."
An AOLer for over fifteen years, Christa Zambardino, VP of Sales for AOL homepages, has seen it all. Over her long career at AOL, Christa has witnessed first-hand the evolution of AOL into a company and brand, but also the progression of the industry as a whole.
We sat down with Christa to discuss a wide variety of topics including advertising trends, the importance of volunteerism and her thoughts on what differentiates the AOL homepage from its competitors. "For our users, it all starts here. Our homepage is really America's homepage. By integrating our unique canvases, our video assets like the 'You've Got...' series and featuring heart-warming stories, the homepage has a more personal feel that users identify with and want to wake up to in the morning and end their days with in the evening."
When Christa came aboard AOL there was no sales strategy for the homepage and she quickly identified that a category focus was needed. By working with marketing, her team created sales materials and messaging that catered to brands in all industries.
Combined with continuing technological advancements and a focused editorial strategy, the AOL homepage has seen huge growth in revenue, and a substantial increase in video views and video content displayed since 2010.¹ Providing personalization for users with different tactics like an emphasis on local offerings has also led to growth. "We introduced the local page, which uses your zip code to pull relevant information, whether its news from your local Patch town, directions for your neighborhood from MapQuest or movie times and listings from Moviefone, we use geo-targeted data to make our users' lives easier."
Discussing advertising trends that will impact 2012, Christa cites the importance of mobile and video. "We're working with our mobile team to take advantage of these added advertising opportunities. Over the next quarter we will continue to integrate rich media into our mobile offerings and possibly incorporate targeting capabilities to create a more complete experience."
One of the things that sets Christa apart is her commitment to helping others. At AOL, "We are in the business of helping people. Period" and Christa lives this value every single day. After volunteering in 2009 at the Ronald McDonald House New York during AOL's day of service, Monster Help Day, Christa made a personal connection to the house and wanted to look for new ways to continue to support the organization. After spending more time at the house, it was clear to Christa that they needed a new media room. Suggesting demolishing the house's dated computer room and starting fresh, Christa presented her proposal to the executive team and immediately received support for her project, engaging 20 different departments from designers to engineers to assist her along the way.
One year later, AOLers celebrated the room's completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with patients, their families and Kevin Jonas. The new AOL Media Room now includes brand new computers and digital equipment set up for one-on-one tutoring, and group learning scenarios for children in treatment, as well as their siblings staying at the House. The house was so thankful to Christa for all of her hard work that they recently asked to join the house's board of associates.
This year, in an effort to raise money for her NY marathon run, Christa created an AOL team that will run under the Ronald McDonald House name. All donations will go toward enhancing the house's music room, on behalf of Rory Wheeler, Christa's AOL colleague and marathon runner, who passed away from cancer late last year.
Christa's amazing accomplishments have not gone unnoticed at AOL. At this year's sales conference, Christa was recognized in front of all of her peers when she was honored with the Rory Wheeler Courage Award for her tireless philanthropic work both professionally and personally. "Cancer has been such a big part of my life, and I love showing people that giving back is an easy thing to do and does not take a lot of time. Being acknowledged in front of my peers and the whole company was incredible. I was so honored and proud to be part of AOL."
Source: AOL Internal Data