AOL Breaks Its Biggest Online Campaign

Inspired by its offline television “Life Needs” campaign, AOL Time Warner's America Online Inc. tomorrow unveils the largest online advertising campaign in its history to promote the new AOL 9.0 Optimized service.

The campaign by AOL agency BBDO New York's AtmosphereBBDO division focuses on AOL 9.0 Optimized features including parental controls and spam filters. The effort is its largest in reach and budget, but AOL would not comment on the ad spend.

“AOL has not been as good an advertiser supporter of the online marketing medium nor has it been as good in leveraging our online assets to use the online marketplace to drive our business,” said New York-based John Lane, AOL vice president of online marketing. “We're doing a 180-degree turn now.”

The ads support the TV effort, with the Running Man logo in each tagline execution, including “Life needs less aggravation” to promote spam filters or “Life needs a little personality” to push SuperBuddy icons.

On Oct. 15 and 16, AOL's online campaign will aim to reach more than 80 percent of Web users nationwide, the company said. It will overrun the Internet with rich media and creative that is irreverent in contextually relevant sites.

Sites in the initial phase include,, BlackPlanet and MarketWatch plus AOL properties like MapQuest, Netscape, AIM Today and A special omnibus page also has been created for to promote AOL 9.0 features.

In the next phase, through Dec. 31, AOL will run ads on sites that are relevant to its new Internet access product. For example, it will continue to advertise its parental controls and spam filters on iVillage, a site frequented by parents.

“It'll still be a very high spend rate compared to the industry,” Lane said.

In addition to banners, AOL will use affiliate and search engine marketing as well as network site buys. It will use incentive-based offers to generate interest and trials.

The company's TV campaign has aired since Sept. 1, a month and a day after AOL 9.0 was introduced to existing subscribers. At least 15 TV executions feature personalities like Jesse Ventura and Carson Daly, but again focus on how the product is integral to everyday needs.

AOL 9.0 discs hit homes and retail stores this week. Users of version 8.0 can simply upgrade using that disc or by going online.

For new subscribers, the monthly fee for AOL 9.0 is the same as its predecessor, $23.90 a month for narrowband and $14.95 for broadband, but they have to bring their own online access. Those are the most popular plans out of an array offered by AOL.

AOL has 26 million subscribers. But like any other ISP, there is attrition. The steady growth of broadband access is another issue. So the online rendition of the “Life Needs” campaign for AOL 9.0 has its work cut out.

“We want to extend the 'Life Needs' campaign to show that AOL does fit into everyday people's everyday lives,” Lane said.

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