AOL Kicks Running Man Out Of Bed

Once, He Romped With Sharon Stone, Now He's Out in the Cold

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Did AOL -- er, Aol. -- just kick Running Man out of bed? AOL staffers stuffed the ballots at Advertising Week to earn Running Man "icon" status, beating out the likes of Ronald McDonald. But he's gone AWOL in AOL's new branding, designed by branding consultancy Wolff Olins, which features a new treatment for the acronym (Aol.) which will be stamped over any number of different animated images to reflect, we're told, the varied content AOL now produces. (Animated version here.)

[Editor's note: To the geniuses who came up with Aol., lower-cased and with a period at the end? Our copy desk has a suggestion of where you can stick that period ... uhm, right next to Yahoo's exclamation point.]

It's a quick, hard fall for Running Man, who's had some seriously awesome turns as AOL's ubiquitous mascot, including a sack-session with Sharon Stone. (Points for who ever uploads this 2003 ad to YouTube and sends us the link.)

Tim Armstrong seized on Running Man as an internal point of pride and rallying point back in April with internally-distributed "Vote AOL" faux campaign-wear. But the Running Man was deemed too specific to AOL's communications businesses, ie: AIM, and AOL wants you and everyone else to know it's really about content now.

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"The Running Man is loved and known icon, but he represents the communications products and that's not the whole new AOL," said AOL chief of staff Maureen Sullivan.

Sullivan promises Running Man will have a role in corporate branding going forward, but for right now he's being used mostly as an internal rallying point: "It represents the energy and pace that we are trying to move at here -- it is a turnaround situation."

The new "Aol." logo will be rolled out across AOL sites Dec. 10, the day AOL shares start trading on the NYSE. As is the case today, some sites, such as AOL Music, will have prominent AOL branding; others, like BlackVoices.com, will have little. Initially, the old logo will simply be swapped with the new.

Where does that leave Running Man? His fate will likely be decided by whoever AOL names as chief marketing officer. Sullivan said that search is under way, as is a search for a chief creative officer, who could also have a say. The two positions could be held by one person, depending on the candidates. Running Man's fate hangs in the balance.

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