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Atmosphere BBDO, Carat and Martin to Split $50 Million Project

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NEW YORK ( -- AOL today named three creative agencies to work on the consumer advertising campaign for its new, free online portal.
AOL is launching a $50 million advertising push for its new ad-supported portal.
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Omnicom Group’s Atmosphere BBDO is handling online ads, Aegis Group's Carat Interactive is handling search engine marketing, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., is handling offline ads, including print, radio outdoor and some TV.

New ad-supported site
AOL’s new ad-supported site touts free movie and video content meant to maximize traffic rather than subscription sales, the basis of its previous model. A $50 million marketing push will reintroduce the site to non-subscribers and generate buzz for its media offerings, both original and licensed.

The theme of the push is “Now,” said Kevin Conroy, executive vice president and chief operating officer of AOL Media Networks, invoking the idea AOL content can be accessed wherever and whenever.

“We’ve designed a campaign that plays on the notion of immediacy,” he said. “[With online] the user will be able to experience it in real time.” Creative from Atmosphere BBDO will direct consumers in real time to several of its key entertainment channels, including Sessions and AOL Music Live, which features live music performances, and TV’s Top 5, airing TV’s “best moments every day.”

Atmosphere BBDO previously had worked on AOL’s broadband business; Omnicom sibling OMD will handle online media buying for the Now effort.

Search engine marketing is key
Probably the biggest key to the campaign is search engine and online marketing. Under the old subscription-based formula, the pay-wall kept keyword searches on Yahoo or Google, for example, from bringing up AOL content. Carat Interactive has already been working on optimizing AOL’s pages for search, as the company set the stage for the new launch, and this assignment deepens the relationship, Mr. Conroy said, and creates a Carat team dedicated to the AOL business.

Martin Agency will handle offline ads, after having previously done a series of print branding ads. Most of the offline effort will be delivered through newspaper and magazine, radio and outdoor advertising. There will be a smaller, more targeted TV effort, for example, advertising AOL’s music properties only around music programming. Last summer, AOL split with Wieden & Kennedy, which had handled the creative on AOL’s 2004 Super Bowl ads. Interpublic’s Initiative will handle offline media buying.

Offline awareness building
“There’s a shifting media model, and search and online is an effective way to reach people in real time,” Mr. Conroy said. “But offline still builds awareness.”

The search marketing is already underway, Conroy said, and the online efforts will begin in a few weeks. Offline components will kick off in September.

Omnicom's BBDO, New York, has remains agency of record for creative on AOL’s subscription service, and Interpublic's Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, is handling trade advertising.

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