Pizza Hut Serves Up Free AOL Subscription

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TOKYO - American Online had Pizza Hut deliver free subscription software with pizzas across Japan in late summer to promote AOL services among young city dwellers.

"Many of Pizza Hut's users are young people living in cities. These are the kind of people we want to target to expand our service," an AOL representative in Japan, Chilako Jo, said.

In the month-long pilot trial, people calling Pizza Hut's 230 restaurants for a home delivery, were asked whether they had a PC at home.

If the customer did own a computer, the Pizza Hut staff delivered a CD rom with the pizza.

"Pizzarom was specially designed for the campaign and contained the Pizza Hut and AOL logos," Jo said.

"It was designed to look like a pizza and contained pizza-themed computer games such as pizza bingo. The desktop wallpaper imitated a pizza, the cursor resembled a pizza and icons were pizzas," she added.

The disc also contained installation software providing 50 hours of free access to AOL.

AOL has not determined whether or not the trial was a success. "We are still assessing the results of the trial," spokesman for AOL in the US, Angelo Ioffreda, said.

"But we got a buzz going about AOL because it was such an innovative idea," he added, declining to give response rates.

The project was cooked up by AOL Japan. However, AOL in the US has launched similar promotional campaigns (it was the first company to give away software for free).

In 1997, Sony agreed to include AOL's online service software on a few CDs such as Michael Bolton's "All That Matters" and Celine Dion's "Let's Talk About Love."

The company has also delivered free software and online subscription with Omaha steaks and handed out CDs at amusement parks.

If the Pizza Hut trial in Japan proves out and swells AOL's subscription figures in that country, it may be repeated elsewhere.

AOL Japan is 50 percent owned by AOL in the US. Mitsui owns 40 percent of the company and Nihon Keizo Shimbun 10 percent.

The Japanese company was launched in 1997 and now has 100,000 members.

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