AOL Touts Music, Sports, And More In Online Ad Campaign

  • by May 23, 2004
Aiming to promote the feature-rich content offered on its AOL for Broadband service, America Online will pull the trigger on an estimated $2 million online ad campaign that goes live on June 1. The purpose of the campaign is to convince consumers who already have a broadband Internet connection through their cable or telecom provider that by adding on the AOL for Broadband service, they will get valuable, on-demand programming that is not available elsewhere.

The content showcased in the ads includes AOL Music, which features properties such as Sessions@AOL and Breakers, and AOL Sports, which offers on-demand NBA and Nascar streaming video. The ads also highlight AOL for Broadband features including parental controls, virus protection, and homework help. In addition, a launch ad features diverse demographics and outlines what AOL for Broadband programming can offer them. A unique landing page with the copy "Now Playing On AOL" appears as a kind of programming guide, showing prospective customers all the content they can get on the service. The ad features subsections for categories including living, music, news, finance, TV, and sports.

"The campaign is designed to showcase key elements of the AOL for Broadband service offering and persuade prospective members that a broadband connection alone is not enough," says John Lane, VP-online marketing, AOL. "Speed is great, but it's not the finish line. There's more to a great Internet experience than speed," Lane adds.

The media plan for the campaign includes such sites as ABC News, CBS SportsLine, Fox News, NYTimes,, iVillage, About, Shockwave, AtomFilms, MTV, VH1, Rolling Stone, and Comedy Central. The ads feature rich media technologies including Unicast, and standard banners, and will run adjacent to streaming content. The campaign was created by Omnicom Group's AtmosphereBBDO, New York; media buying and planning was handled by Digitas, New York. The $2 million media buy is part of some $15-$20 million spent by AOL on online media on an annualized basis.

Five feature-driven creative executions address individual attributes of AOL for Broadband, with copy lines "Speed Meet Self Expression," which stresses communication, while "Speed Meet Greater Peace of Mind" emphasizes parental controls and the AOL Guardian feature. One execution's copy line reads: "Speed Meet More Music Choices," and the Unicast-enabled ad shows a video clip of the band Coldplay playing on AOL Music's Sessions@AOL. A window appears that invites visitors to engage with the ad and view the clip. Ad copy reads: "Now playing, original performances, the hottest artists, on-demand, 24/7, up next on Sessions@AOL, Coldplay. It's all here. Are you?" The ad window invites visitors to click to "Add AOL for Broadband to your high-speed connection now."

"We really wanted to put a very compelling ad unit in front of the target audience that poses the question, 'what is your high-speed connection doing for you?,'" Lane says, adding that AOL hopes to engage prospective customers with the highly interactive ad units, although he emphasizes: "Our goal is to build the category, not necessarily to ask for subscriptions. We're measuring this on more traditional brand elements rather than how many sales did we get today." In fact, Lane says that AOL is conducting a Dynamic Logic study with the campaign that will track brand metrics.

"For us, the challenge was to overcome the kind of accepted notion of what broadband means, and overcome the fact that high-speed users are generally pretty satisfied with their online experience," says Andreas Combuechen, chief creative officer-CEO, AtmosphereBBDO. "[In other words] a high-speed connection is not enough to have a great experience."

In order to set the tone, Combuechen's team created an umbrella ad that allows visitors to sample the experience, and addresses benefits to individual types of customers. The ads feature a red background instead of AOL's customary blue--"we had to be bolder," Combuechen says--and the brand's iconic running man has a somewhat reduced role in the campaign. The effort will run until July 4.

AOL has 3.5 million members on broadband price plans as of the first quarter ending March 31. The company has 24 million subscribers in the United States as of the first quarter; it lost 237,000 subscribers during the quarter. The Time Warner unit--the subject of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department--also increased earnings before interest, taxes depreciation, and amortization by 21 percent in the first quarter.

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