EarthLink Launches Ad Campaign

Internet service provider EarthLink Monday unveiled an ad campaign designed to position the No. 2 ISP as a pioneering, freedom-loving alternative to market leader America Online.

Atlanta-based EarthLink is currently a distant second to AOL in terms of pay-for-access subscribers. With about 4.3 million subscribers and a 3.2 percent market share, the company commands almost a fifth of Dulles, Va.-based AOL’s reported 25 million subscribers, according to Internet Advertising Report sister publication ISP-Planet.

EarthLink’s campaign, created by TBWA/Chiat/Day, is aimed at communicating that the ISP delivers what it believes is the essence of the Internet — the thrill of exploration, discovery and learning, or what it calls “the Real Internet.

“With the commercialization and re-purposing of the Internet and its content, many people and Internet service providers alike have forgotten the virtues of the ‘Real Internet,'” said Claudia Caplan, EarthLink’s vice president of brand marketing. “‘The Real Internet’ is an open, unrestricted, interactive experience that means something different to each user.”

That positioning is something of a jab at AOL, which for many years has been criticized by some Internet users for providing its subscribers with a less-than-complete version of the Internet through its service.

“Our creative team tried to capture the essence of the EarthLink brand as a cause,” said TBWA/Chiat/Day chairman and worldwide creative director Lee Clow. “EarthLink champions people’s pure relationship with the Internet and allows people to discover what the ‘Real Internet’ is all about.”

To communicate that, the campaign uses historical explorers and thinkers — like Galileo, Magellan, and Darwin.

Creatives broke in mid-November with a two-week “teaser” campaign, featuring unbranded print ads in alternative weeklies in 14 key markets. The “teaser” portion also featured outdoor and out-of-home ads — postcards, street postings, bus shelter posters, taxi tops and billboards. Ads also were projected on buildings in high-traffic areas of Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City and Sacramento, Calif.

One execution of the black-and-yellow ads implored users to “Unlock Your Inner Magellan … Get Linked”.

That teaser campaign complemented a handout outreach in the 14 markets, referencing TBWA-created Web sites, including www.innermagellan.com, www.galileoschildren.com and www.speedupevolution.com. The sites include branded screensavers, desktop wallpaper, electronic postcards and discussion forums — as well as animated Flash presentations that criticize “dumbed-down versions” of the Internet.

The campaign came out of “tease” mode on Monday, when ads featuring the EarthLink name and logo appeared in those markets, where they will run through year-end.

Beginning Monday, the print campaign will expand to include branded ads in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Throughout the month, ads are slated to run in several other major national publications.

Sixty- and 30-second television spots also broke Monday. The spots feature animated people discussing the “Real Internet”.

Two additional 30-second spots are slated to run beginning in mid-December. Those ads feature Magellan and Darwin, the latter of whom says, “You don’t just buy something online, you evolve the future of business.”

Spending on the campaign was not disclosed.

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