Prepares Campaign for AOL Broadband Push at Daytona 500

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NEW YORK ( -- America Online will break a 30-second spot promoting its AOL Broadband service during the Fox Network's Feb. 16 broadcast of Nascar's top racing event, the Daytona 500.

The spot, created by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, marks the second time BBDO has worked for the online unit of AOL Time Warner since AOL fired Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham, New York, last month. A Super Bowl commercial flagging AOL Broadband was also created by BBDO.

BBDO's inside track?
AOL's estimated $100 million advertising account is currently in review; BBDO is one of six finalists preparing a pitch for the account. The agency's project work, as well as its previous relationship with Leonard Short, executive vice president of brand marketing for AOL, is fueling speculation that the agency has the inside track on winning the business.

Mr. Short worked with BBDO when he

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was an executive with Charles Schwab. "Certainly [BBDO is] gaining insight into what drives the business, but I wouldn't say that they have an edge," he said.

The racing spot featuring Nascar driver Jeff Green isn't the last of BBDO's work for AOL. The agency is being tapped to create more ads highlighting AOL's entertainment franchises, which are considered crucial to luring subscribers to AOL Broadband. (AOL is attempting to move its 35 million dial-up members to broadband, where they will hopefully spend more time online and pay for exclusive content.)

'Entertainment component'
"There is a need for us to be very topical in the marketplace around entertainment. BBDO has done a magnificent job with HBO, and that's kind of a model for the entertainment component, so we have them engaged on some entertainment, promotional pieces" that are separate from the overall account pitch, Mr. Short said.

Meanwhile, while Jeff Green hasn't been a Nascar star this season, the TV spot takes advantage of the all-important pole position he earned for the upcoming race.

While the spot, featuring Mr. Green driving the AOL Broadband car, is currently in production, Mr. Short said the voice-over would be something to the effect of "Why has he gotten faster? What's happened? He came out of nowhere." The implication is that Web users will get faster service when they upgrade to broadband.

Virtual billboard
The spot will air twice during Sunday's pre-race festivities, once during the laps prior to the race and during the race. A camera will also appear in the AOL car; a virtual billboard with "Brought to you by AOL Broadband" appears during the broadcast.

Besides BBDO, finalists in the AOL review are Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston and New York; Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York; Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York; independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.; and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, which is partly owned by Maxxcom. Pile & Co, Boston, is leading the review.

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