BBDO Wins AOL Broadband Account

AOL announced Friday it awarded its new broadband advertising account to BBDO, after conducting a two-month agency review after dumping longtime agency Gotham.

BBDO will take on the first advertising campaign for AOL Broadband. AOL Time Warner’s struggling Internet unit has high hopes for its broadband services, as its once vaunted subscriber growth has slowed and even begun to decline.

The assignment comes after BBDO designed AOL Broadband’s Super Bowl commercial this year. The agency has done further work on AOL commercials airing during Daytona 500 and the upcoming telecast of the Academy Awards.

“Based on BBDO’s special event work for AOL and their terrific creative presentation, we are confident that BBDO is the agency that can excite interest in AOL Broadband as the No. 1 online resource for entertainment and information in a high-speed world,” said Len Short, AOL’s executive vice president for brand marketing.

The broadband assignment could be part of a larger win for BBDO, which will compete with Wieden & Kenney for the more lucrative assignment of developing AOL’s brand.

Short was hired on in January to revive the AOL brand image. A week later he fired AOL’s longtime ad agency, Interpublic’s Gotham, and put the entire account up for review.

BBDO has its work cut out for it, as AOL arrives quite late with a competitive broadband offering. New AOL chief Jonathan Miller has tagged the task of moving the company’s subscriber base from dialup connections to broadband as key to turning around the company

While AOL remains far and away the largest Internet service provider (ISP) with 35 million subscribers worldwide, just 600,000 of them access the Internet through its broadband offering, despite the explosive growth in broadband connectivity in the past couple of years.

According to Nielsen//Net Ratings, about 33.6 million U.S. consumers had broadband access at home in December 2002, a 58 percent increase from a year ago. Yet AOL, which holds 35 percent of the dialup market, has a tiny slice of this much more lucrative market.

AOL 8.0, the company new broadband-centric Internet service, was supposed to improve the company’s broadband share. So far, however, that has not happened. In the fourth quarter, AOL’s U.S. subscriber base actually shrank by 176,000 during the normally robust holiday season.

AOL said BBDO was chosen from an initial pool of 19 agencies that was whittled down to six finalists that gave presentations at the company’s Dulles, Va., headquarters.

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