AOL Wears Parachute Pants to Its NYSE Party

Break-dancers, wearing white T-shirts with the new “Aol.” paint-splash logo, entertained those who waited on the red carpet for AOL’s spin-off party last night at the New York Stock Exchange. You know, break-dancing is kinda young, kinda “back.”

There was a bit of accidental irony in the air on an otherwise pleasantly mild evening on Wall Street. After all, break-dancing has never been as popular as it was in the 1980s — way back when America Online was founded under its first name, Control Video Corp. Even though the art-form was cultivated in the streets of 1970s NYC, for most of us, it entered our consciousness about the same time as the late Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It’s Generation X — now moms and dads, by the way — in parachute pants.

If AOL wants to rebrand as youthful or new, it probably could have done better than break-dancing. Cutting-edge multimedia artists from Brooklyn could have been hired for the price of milk and cookies, incorporating their hip-signature MacBooks in their performance and communicating a much more “now” feel.

Or, if the break-dancing had included, say, a really good mother-son combo act, Gen X and Gen Next going b-boy, all the irony would have worked towards the brand’s favor in a turnabout fashion. “Yeah, this IS your mother’s AOL! And it’s still up-and-coming!”

At any rate, after standing in line with a few other patient media members for around 25 minutes, we finally made our way to the NYSE floor, which was thoroughly packed with ad professionals, technology executives, investment bankers, and media members. We drank free top-shelf spirits, wines, and beer, while milling around from one bar stand to the next in that interestingly arranged maze of a room that we’ve all seen on TV countless times.

Harry Connick Jr. was there for AOL, a refrain of his appearance at an AOL dinner during Advertising Week. Connick was not — from what I saw at least — singing any tunes. Instead, he was rather graciously conversing with members of the crowd as people consistently snapped photos.

And then, as was rumored, Sean “Diddy” Combs showed up. The place buzzed. It really did. No shocker, I know, but Diddy is the deal. He chatted/photo-opped with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong for a few minutes, as folks swarmed around the two and Diddy’s body guard. About as many photos were snapped in that short frame of time than probably occurred during Harry Connick Jr.’s entire night.

But as I walked out of the NYSE a half-hour later, it dawned on me that AOL chose two celebrity brands that both made their mark in the 1990s. Hmmm….

Well, from a messaging perspective, at least they didn’t try to use Michael Jackson. On second thought, at least we know that he’ll still have something to sell in five years.

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