AOL Launches 9.0 Online Ad Push

America Online said on Monday it would launch its biggest online advertising campaign ever to support the release of AOL 9.0 Optimized.

The campaign will kick off Wednesday with a two-day blitz AOL reckons will reach 80 percent of Web users. The push consists of rich media ads on sites like Weather.com, USAToday.com, MarketWatch.com, as well as AOL sites like CNN.com and MapQuest. AOL will achieve its reach without advertising on Yahoo or MSN.

AOL said the campaign, running through the end of the year, would be its largest ever in both reach and budget. Spending levels were not disclosed.

AtmosphereBBDO, AOL’s interactive agency of record, designed the campaign to key off AOL’s TV efforts. Those ads feature celebrities like wrestler-turned-politician Jesse Ventura touting specific virtues of AOL 9.0, such as spam filters and parental controls. Likewise, the online executions each focus on a specific feature, along with the tagline “Life needs.” An online ad for AOL’s spam controls carries the line “Life needs less aggravation.” The ads are also keyed to their host site’s audience — ads on weather sites tout 9.0’s weather features, while those on iVillage trumpet parental controls.

Omnicom’s BBDO replaced longtime AOL agency Gotham and promptly mothballed its “So easy to use, no wonder it’s No. 1” tagline. Instead, BBDO rolled out a saucy campaign in March to push AOL’s broadband offering.

The online ads play off the TV executions, both in tone and with the prominent use of the AOL “Running Man.”

“Integration is hard,” said John Lane, AOL’s vice president of online marketing. “Anyone who thinks differently hasn’t done integration.”

The campaign comes as AOL hopes its new Internet service offering will help it turn the corner. The company has made a point to reach out to advertisers and agencies in recent months, with AOL’s ad chief Lisa Brown going so far as to apologize for the company’s prior arrogance.

“AOL is reconfirming its commitment to the online marketing industry as a way to grow its business,” Lane said.

A further step in the rejuvenation process was confirmed today with the announcement that AOL has only a few more days in the corporate name. On Thursday, the company’s official name will revert to Time Warner and the “TWX” ticker symbol. The company announced the change last month.

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